Saturday, August 14, 2010

Oooh lookie!

Jessie and I were headed out the door to go to dinner and something caught my eye amongst the overgrown vegetation in the front of the house. On further examination, I saw these caterpillars going to town on this milkweed plant.

Milkweeds can be considered weeds. You know of the sticky white sap the plant produces when damaged. If you've ever been dared to taste it, it's quite bitter. It's a usual dare of a farm kid. But once you do it, you'll NEVER do it again.

And, I don't know of a farm kid who doesn't, in October, run around pulling the pods off the milkweed plants, opening them up and letting them head off into a stiff breeze.
There is a waltz, a grace to the flight of the seed pods. Walt Disney used this in the original Fantasia.

I keep milkweed plants, encourage their growth, in my yard. They are the primary food source for monarch butterflies and who doesn't like those? I have seen a few flitting about the yard, not as many this year as in years past, however. The insecticide used to kill mosquitos can be deadly to monarchs, but, until recently, mosquitos haven't been a problem. My neighbors probably aren't enamored with the milkweeds but they are with the butterflies and you can't have one without the other.

Here are the seed pods on one of the plants next to the front door. I think the flowers of the milkweed are rather distinctive. You probably have never noticed. They do have a scent.

But the caterpillars at top are not monarch caterpillars. I had no idea what kind these were. It has taken a full hour of poking around on the Internet to find the answer. These caterpillars are Euchaetes egle, the Milkweed Tussock Moth. I've never heard of this moth.

In researching this, I've discovered there are four butterflies that love milkweeds. Two of them don't range this far north. Interestingly, they all look similar and I don't think, unless I really studied butterflies, I could tell them apart. A moth, however, I know what that is.

I have not seen the caterpillars since Thursday evening. I don't know where they went. I would love to see them pupate into the moths. Moths are attracted to light sources so perhaps, in a few weeks, I'll have these in the house in the evening. I usually catch them and toss them outside as they aren't a threat so killing them is silly. My girls, on the other hand, enjoy having moths to stalk. It's actually quite comical to watch.

I take this discovery as a testament to a natural landscape. I'm not going to call it overgrown, as my neighbors probably do. Harboring something I've never seen before makes me smile.

Beverage: Cranberry Grape Juice



  1. i too have milkweed by the house for the specific purpose of the butterflies. i'm sure the people who rent the farm are not too happy, but there's not very many. haven't seen any furry catap. tho. glad your mother is not due to come to your house later on. might not get out of the car. i'm afraid of moths. sometimes challenging to get from our garage into house.

  2. I didn't realize you were afraid of moths. I just find them annoying when they are in the house as they cluster around the lights. Plus, if one is being stalked, there is nothing like having a cat suddenly land in your lap in pursuit of something the size of a quarter.