New feeding grounds for the monarch caterpillars
This certainly has been an exciting and sometimes stressful week.
Let's just call it the Chasing Milkweed adventure.
Our milkweed plants are going dormant, yet the mama monarchs are happily laying eggs wherever they see milkweed.
We had a total of fourteen monarch caterpillars, most of which seemed to be very close in age and size.
I covered the pots with fine mesh to prevent the mamas from laying any more eggs, and to keep the nasty aphids out.
Two weeks ago, I knew that there was no way that we would have enough milkweed for the caterpillars.
None of my immediate neighbors are growing milkweed.
I called one of our local plant nurseries to inquire about their stock of milkweed, hoping to purchase a couple of gallon size containers.
They were completely sold out.
In the meantime I checked nextdoor.com to see if anyone had enough milkweed to share. Alas, other people with monarch caterpillars in their gardens were having the same issue.
After checking with a couple more independent nurseries, who were sold out of milkweed, the last one I called informed me that they had some milkweed shrubs growing on their property. They asked if I would consider bringing the caterpillars to their nursery, and let them feed on the milkweed there. I was elated and so grateful!
In the photo above is a closeup of one of the monarch caterpillars feeding on the narrow leaf milkweed at the nursery.
We took seven caterpillars there, because the others were very still on various milkweed stumps in our pots. I thought they were in the process of morphing into their next instar.
Look at all that delicious narrow leaf milkweed!
In a manner of seconds, all seven caterpillars happily explored their new habitat.
But now, we still had the same food issue for our remaining caterpillars on the spindly milkweed plants at home.
We could have taken them to the same nursery.
And then yesterday I found out from one of our neighbors that they had several milkweed plants growing in their backyard. I told them about our remaining monarch caterpillars, and they generously allowed me to transfer our caterpillars to their milkweed.
Here is one of the lovely milkweed plants I covered with fine mesh. The mesh is clipped to dry branches that act as poles around the plant. The mesh is anchored with rocks to keep the caterpillars in and predators out.
It is one of three plants where the caterpillars now live.
Here is a closeup of one of the happy caterpillars, munching on a leaf in their new habitat.
I am so grateful to my neighbors, and relieved to know that the caterpillars will have enough to eat.