There was plenty for them to eat--both the wild plums and the lilacs were blooming profusely--but where would they lay their eggs?
The milkweeds weren't up yet.
The Monarchs floated here and there, just above the mustards and mints that were already leafing out--and it broke my heart to think that they were looking for milkweeds they would not find.
Still, the butterflies avoided the burns and replenished their energy with nectar. I blessed the plums and lilacs and yes, the dandelions, that were keeping them alive.
Then on April 12, I saw milkweed noses poking through the soil.
I was so happy!
The milkweeds were in an area where I had worked hard to remove the Crown Vetch. If ever there was a reward for all that labor, this was it. If ever there was an incentive to continue removing invasive, non-native monocultures to make room for native plants, this was it!
|These little white balls are the eggs of|
Within just a few days, the eggs became tiny caterpillars......with a healthy appetite!
They need to grow quickly, because the cardenolides in milkweeds provide protection against large predators but not against small ones. Vertebrates such as birds and rodents have learned not to eat the bitter-tasting Monarch caterpillars or adults. But invertebrates, such as spiders, either have different palates or less memory. In any event, the milkweeds that feed these Monarchs are also home to spiders that might eat the tiny larvae.
I photographed these two spiders on the same milkweed plants where I found the caterpillars.
Milkweed! You are feeding spiders, too.
Grow up fast, little caterpillars! Make a dynasty of butterflies!
I vow to create even more milkweed habitat before your descendants follow the wingbeat trail to this place next year.