Morning Impressions with Monarchs

| October 21, 2014 | 2 Replies

Morning impressions with monarchs began my day. I spotted a pineapple guava yesterday and thought this morning it would look nice when the first rays of sun kissed it.

Morning Impressions with Monarchs

Pineapple guava

As I was photographing it, just after the sun rose past my neighbor’s tree, I remarked (to myself) that I hadn’t seen many Monarch caterpillars, considering that Monarch butterflies had been a daily presence since the milkweed popped up in the spring. But, lo, I looked down and spotted one, two, three within two feet of one another.

Morning Impressions with Monarchs

Monarch caterpillar, 5th Instar on Tropical Milkweed leaf

This caterpillar is full size and ready to pop from all the milkweed it’s eaten. It will probably wander off today to find a spot to make a cocoon.

Morning Impressions with Monarchs - Monarch caterpillar eating

5th Instar Monarch caterpillar chomps on Tropical Milkweed leaf

This milkweed leaf may be the last meal for this caterpillar and probably will be finished eating today or tomorrow.

Morning Impressions with Monarchs

Monarch caterpillar after shedding its last skin

The caterpillar above just shed it’s 4th instar skin, which you can see just to the right of it’s head. You see the little feet? Now, it needs to eat non-stop to fill out that roomy skin. This caterpillar has to nearly triple it’s size to reach the size of the two cats above it.

Morning Impressions with Monarchs - frass

Monarch with frass and aphids

Whenever you spot a pile of green balls on a leaf, you likely will find a caterpillar above it. In the case of Monarchs, this is a welcome sight in your garden, because Monarchs only eat milkweed and will not bother your edibles. So, plant plenty of milkweed to encourage and support this endangered beauty.

Morning Impressions with Monarchs - aphids

Non-native Oleander Aphids on Tropical Milkweed

Monarch caterpillars have to compete with these bright orange aphids which are ubiquitous on milkweed. Even though I have a lot of native Narrowleaf milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis, growing in the Late Bloomer garden, Monarch butterflies prefer the bright red and orange flowers of Tropical milkweed. Did you know they can see the color red?

Morning Impressions with Monarchs - Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly on Tropical milkweed blooms

Tropical milkweed self-seeds and is really a weed! It pops up everywhere after the seed pods burst and the seeds are carried on the wind.

Morning Impressions with Monarchs - milkweed seed pod

Tropical Milkweed pod split with seeds escaping

This 2nd instar caterpillar has just shed its original skin after emerging from its egg. Another Monarch egg, smaller than a pinhead, sits right beside it.

Morning Impressions with Monarchs - Monarch egg

2nd Instar Monarch caterpillar with skin beside a Monarch egg

The garden never looks more inviting than in morning light. A few more Morning Impressions:

Morning Impressions with Monarchs - tomatoes

Late season Red Cherry tomatoes on a dwindling vine

Morning Impressions with Monarchs - pitcher sage

California native Pitcher Sage

Pitcher sage, Lepechinia calycina, is a fragrant shrub with delicate bell-shaped blooms which attract hummingbirds, and is native and is endemic (limited) to California.

Morning Impressions with Monarchs - borage

Borage bush, much beloved by bees

Morning Impressions with Monarchs - Mexican sunflower

Mexican sunflower, dew-kissed, much beloved by Monarchs

One of my favorite summer annuals is the Mexican sunflower. Watch for my upcoming episode on Late Bloomer. Please subscribe! I hope you enjoyed images from my garden. Please tune in again! Happy gardening! – Kaye


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Category: California Native Plants, Flowers, Monarch Butterfly

Comments (2)

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  1. lisa lynn says:

    I’m so happy to see all your baby monarchs! We have had so few here in my midwestern garden, surrounded by big ag fields 🙁 I worry about them. I’ve allowed wild milkweed to grow in several areas around our yard where they will be protected, but have yet to see any caterpillars on them.

    Love the photos! As always…I feel a wee bit envious of your warm growing conditions, at this time of year especially. 😉

    • Having Big Ag all around would make me crazy. I wish collectively we could do more, faster, to return to a sustainable model. I will be thinking of you, and hoping your homestead will spread a positive vibe over the entire area, and you will influence those around you to farm sustainably. Thanks for your support. And yes, gotta say, the weather is the reason to stay here. 🙂

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