Monarch caterpillar on a native Showy milkweed leaf
Monarch butterfly mamas have been busy laying eggs on our potted native milkweed plants, and now the eggs are hatching.
The caterpillars are very tiny when they hatch, probably less than half a millimeter in length.
They are always such a beautiful sight, and we always feel honored that monarch mamas choose our milkweed for their progeny.
Monarch egg under a native Showy milkweed leaf
There are always so many concerns regarding the eggs and caterpillars of these beautiful butterflies.
First you worry about the milkweed resurrecting from dormancy, if they will actually grow again.
Then wonder if any monarch mamas will come around to lay their eggs on the milkweed.
Once the eggs are laid, and the caterpillars hatch, then you stress about the amount of leaves the caterpillars eat, will there be enough for everyone?
Monarch caterpillar munching on the center of a native Showy milkweed
Last year we got quite desperate, as the monarch caterpillars devoured all of our milkweed plants.
For more milkweed sources, I checked local pollinator and butterfly groups on social media, called local plant nurseries, and asked neighbors if they happened to know anyone with milkweed plants.
We got lucky.
A local plant nursery allowed us to bring some of our caterpillars to feed on their native milkweed shrubs.
And as it happened, our neighbor across the street had milkweed growing in his garden, but no monarch caterpillars to feed.
Small milkweed bug Lygaeus kalmii and three monarch caterpillars on a Narrow leaf milkweed plant
Last but not least are the dreaded potential predators, such as this Small milkweed bug.
They feed on the milkweed plant and sometimes will eat monarch eggs and caterpillars.
Yes, one must be vigilant.
And keep fingers crossed.