Monarch racing the clock

Posted September 11th, 2009 by kcorliss. Comments Off on Monarch racing the clock.

For a few years running I had quite a crop of monarch caterpillars hatching in my flower garden thanks to a swamp milkweed (Aesclepias incarnata). There was even a year when 26 individuals were picked off this single plant. It died some years ago and with it went the success of raising monarchs as my showy milkweed (Aesclepias speciosa) and butterfly milkweed (Aesclepias tuberosa) doesn’t seem to attract the egg-laying females’ attentions like the other did.

But it was fun while it lasted. I remember my daughter taking some to school. I even have photos somewhere of her entire first grade class letting monarchs go free. Very cool. But she’s in college now. Which should give you an indication of how long ago that was.

Still, yesterday I discovered a single caterpillar on the speciosa. It took awhile to find the rearing box I made years ago, it having been relegated to a far corner of the garage loft. But in the larva went along with a few sprigs of the milkweed.

This particular caterpillar is living on borrowed time however. Looking at the calendar and doing the math puts the odds of this butterfly making it out of the state rather low. Folks who hang around the track would call it a long shot.

It has yet to wrestle into its chrysalis. Then it’s got roughly 10 days of metamorphosing after that. The date of the average first frost is a about two weeks away. It will be a race against the inevitability of time for this insect.

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