Posts Tagged 'caterpillars'

Revenge of the Monarch

This is the whole point, right? A new butterfly, hiding under a leaf next to her chrysalis husk. She’ll dry off, harden up, get ready for the world. And what a world! Is this the generation that is Mexico-bound? I’m guessing so since it’s already mid-September. How does she know? Remarkably, these long-distance, south-bound migrants can live up to nine months, compared to the 2-5 weeks of summer generations. How do other caterpillars know not to eat the leaf this pupa is hanging from, or do they? Two more. My eyes are getting better at this. Both suspended from the milkweed leaf’s midrib. Did they do it at the same time or did one follow the other, as if it was a good place, or is it just random? Monarch sex determination is set at fertilization. There’s a way a tell if the pupa is male or female, evidently, but you have to look closely, and I’m not handling any of these since I follow the Prime Directive. Here’s a Spined Soldier Bug adult sucking the life out of one of the caterpillars. I’ve been seeing the nymph stage assassins at work, but this is the first adult I’ve seen.Saw about three dozen live caterpillars in action, September 6th, overcast hot and grossly humid, and a trio of dead or dying.

Planet of the Monarchs

Yes, please! A veritable orgy of caterpillars. I counted 47 in Green-Wood on the morning of September 5th. I have never seen so many, anywhere.I went early to avoid the heat, but phew, it was still pretty beastly. Obviously, I can’t survey the milkweed further in this tight little meadow. There are probably more caterpillars to be found within.Of note, another nearby patch of milkweed isn’t showing nearly the same level of activity as this one. I wonder why? It gets more shade: could the female butterflies, who lay one egg per plant, skip it more often for this patch, which is in the sun all day long?Found one new pupa/chrysalis, for total of three in process.Many of the caterpillars were late-stage, the big fat ones in the last of five instars before pupation. This one has begun to pupate, anchoring and turning up.24 hours later. Note the two silk anchors; I haven’t seen these before. This chrysalis is high up above the meadow’s average height, so is this extra protection from the wind? 30 hours after that, those two silk strands were gone.But not everybody gets that far.Here’s another goner. Note the killer, a nymph Spined Soldier Bug. True bugs suck, literally. And the other living (munching) caterpillar nearby; these larval stage Monarchs have six simple eyes, but don’t see very well.Another shout-out to Green-Wood for planting milkweed. The end result looks like hell, but as is so often the case, looks are deceiving. This is paradise.

The CCR’s legal briefing on civil disobedience.

Realm of the Monarchs

A brand new female. Will she make it down to Mexico?We’re celebrating Monarch’s all this week. But don’t let my anecdotal enthusiasm delude you. Monarchs in a frightful state.

AFSC’s guide to civil disobedience.


The pupal stage of the Monarch is suspended a cremaster attached to a silk base.Isn’t it amazing? Begs the question why we think we need religion and other fantasies when life is so interesting.In a morning of ferocious heat, I counted 19 caterpillars and three pupae or chrysalises in a patch of milkweed and other plants. I’m sure there were more.The colors of the scales on the wings are the last thing to develop.Here’s an empty husk of a chrysalis. If you plant it, they’ll come… sometimes. Green-Wood has made some effort to put in a few patches of Common Milkweed. It’s a messy affair: devoured, shat upon, not at all the landscaping you would expect in a traditional cemetery. Our hats go off to them.Two of the three pupae I spotted were on a human structure. That probably made them easier to see. This late instar caterpillar is heading down-stem. Did it not like this grass as a place to anchor and transform?

ACT UP’s index on civil disobedience.

Monarch Monday

Some of the dozen Monarch caterpillars (Danaus plexippus) seen feasting on swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in the Bronx recently.  This was my highest ever count to this date, although to be fair I’m much better at spotting them now. Good to see some action on one of the other milkweeds besides A. syriaca.In Queens a few days later: a trio of Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars (Euchaetes egle) were on the same plant as two Monarch caterpillars. These colorful and hairy milkweed specialists, not done any justice by this photo, are, like Monarchs, walking advertisements for tasting bad. Nearby on another milkweed was a Fall Webworm caterpillar (Hyphantria cunea). This species, which makes tent-like webs in trees and so is often confused with Gypsy Moth, is a generalist: will eat practically anything. Milkweed, too? Speaking of eating. Here’s a nymph Spined Solder Bug (Podisus maculiventris) feasting on a Monarch. This was one of the dozen Monarchs seen in the Bronx. The rest were alive, but life’s a risky business.

Have you thought much about civil disobedience?

Monarchy Nears

Prepare for a week of Monarchs! Plant more milkweed! There are around 25 caterpillars in the patch pictured, and they have done an epic job of defoliating these plants down to the bone. All that milkweed energy is going into metamorphosis. (Unless it’s going into a Spined Soldier Bug!)

Monarch Labor Day

Monarch caterpillars famously withstand the toxic sap of milkweeds. They themselves become toxic to predators by eating milkweed. This gaudy circus look is the opposite of camouflage: it’s a warning!

But they don’t want to drown in the sap. This caterpillar chewed away at the stem, or petiole, of this leaf to cut the plant’s circulation to this particular leaf. Of course, this undermined the leaf’s stability, and with the weight of the very hungry caterpillar underneath it, the leaf drooped vertically.

After cutting the leaf’s throat, so to speak, the VHC turned around and started munching away at the leafy greens.

Look at those antenna go…These two eating scenes were taken four minutes apart.Nearby was a younger caterpillar, that is, an earlier instar or stage.A third, late-instar stage specimen had just finished a leaf; you can see how this leaf, too, is bent downwards from the petiole undermining. A lot of milkweed goes into a caterpillar. Some of it comes back out.


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