How Do They Know? Mysteries of Caterpillars

| November 11, 2012 | 14 Replies

After yesterday’s post, I went out to clean the remaining egg off the driveway, or, I tried. I was using the “jet” setting on my hose sprayer and blasting one bad spot. I looked ahead about ten feet from me and saw something dangling to a 20″ plastic pot of a flowering bush. I figured a leaf had gotten caught in one of the million spider webs we have all over the garden. I gave it a good direct blast of water, and it wildly flopped back and forth, but, didn’t release. I went in for a closer look.


Monarch Caterpillar Beginning Metamorphosis

There was a very wet caterpillar dangling from the 1/8″ edge (so sharp, I often fear I am going to cut my hand when I try to move the pot). It survived the assault of water, and began to curl back up. To my utter amazement, I discovered an intact cocoon six inches away! How do they know?


Monarch Cocoon Dripping with Water

The caterpillars are not in the same stage, yet, they left the milkweed plant, and crossed either just the driveway, or the sidewalk and driveway to reach this pot. It seems if they discovered it together, it would make sense they found it, however, if they left the milkweed plant at different times, how did the second one know where to find this pot? My car is in and out of the driveway every day. Did they make their move at night? I have to believe these are very intelligent creatures.

There is a finely woven web where they attach their back anchor feet to the edge, so, they can withstand wind and rain. This is not a terribly protected spot. Rain will definitely hit them, but they chose the side of the pot closest to another big clay pot (with no overhanging edge) that might protect from wind and offer some reflective warmth.

Monarch Caterpillar Starting Metamorphosis

Monarch Caterpillar Curling Up

Hard to see, but there is a fine web of a few strands of silk spun from the third from top anchor feet.

Monarch Caterpillar Spinning Web

Monarch Caterpillar Spinning Web, Insert

I will be watching this process closely and hope I get to see the emergence of the butterfly. Loree Bryer told me to attach some cloth near the cocoon, as the butterfly needs something to grasp while their wings unfold and dry. Otherwise, they could fall to the ground right from the cocoon. So I will do that. And I will be most curious to see if a third caterpillar finds its way to the pot!


Monarch Cocoon with Water Droplets

Nature is a mystery and a wonder! And humans are entrusted to protect and defend it. Thanks for reading! – Kaye

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Category: Monarch Butterfly

Comments (14)

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  1. Looks like you’ll have a lovely Monarch emerging, Kaye! So sorry to read about the egging and then your son’s and nephew’s misadventures. Their healing and renewal are certainly in my prayers…maybe the caterpillar’s come to restore hope that these challenges will pass…thank goodness for garden blessings!

    • Thank you, Catherine! Jillian wrote in her blog today about the cleanup day *1, and the outpouring of support. Yes, garden blessings keep me going. The young girls next door were over while I was pulling out the last of my tomato vines and reworking the bed, and one spotted another cocoon on the fence behind the pot, so evidently it was a community decision to go there. You’ve read about how democratic the animal kingdom is. If only we humans could be so agreeable! – Kaye

  2. flamidwyfe says:

    Amazing photos and story! I look forward to the update!

  3. Great pictures Kaye, hope this is the start of many for you!

  4. Those close-up photos are stunning!

  5. oceannah says:

    love your shots Kaye isn’t it amazing to watch this transformation?!!

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