You know you’ve met a nature lover when…
…You visit their house and as you approach their front door you notice some rather tired-looking, chewed-up milkWEED plants dominating the garden, where a much more beautiful specimen-plant should be. Yes, that’s my house. Well, until this week, that is, when the last generation of this year’s caterpillars finally had their fill. The ratty looking plants are now in the compost bin, and our Rose of Sharon is in full bloom, getting all the sunlight it desires.
I tried to plant the milkweed seeds I harvested from last fall, but nothing came up in the spring. My plan was to see what came up, if it would increase somewhat year after year, and then I could eventually plant more beautiful specimens at my front door. Instead, I came up with a plan ‘B’ to attempt to transplant some new milkweed sprouts, but you have to dig way down to get the full root of the plant. After several tries, I think I was successful with transplanting 4 plants, although all but one died soon after. From what I’ve read, they will seem to die, but if the root becomes established, it will spread and come back the following spring. Fingers crossed… After all, the ones by my front door keep coming back, no matter how many I pull out for lack of space!
The following pics span from the first of June to mid-July. The flowers were in bloom and pungent at the end of June, when they are actually quite lovely, while some plants that were already well-favoured with eggs and caterpillars were looking rather worn out by mid-July. As soon as they looked this tired, I was itching to pull them. If I discovered an egg on one of the leaves, I waited. Sometimes I had to move a caterpillar to a different plant, so I could pull out the spent one.
Last year, I brought 25 caterpillars inside over the summer, later releasing all of them when they emerged from their pupae as adults. This year, I did not bring any inside. The Monarchs arrived earlier this year and I thought I would see how it went. But the predators didn’t really reveal themselves until August. I started seeing evidence of this… dead caterpillars with ants, spiders and beetles around them. And then the ground wasps returned. We attempted to exterminate the wasps without harming anything else, but that is an ongoing battle to revisit next year.
Even now, we are seeing adult Monarchs visiting my gardens, and the last generation of caterpillars have now pupated. So, it won’t be long before these ones are making the long trek to Mexico.