August 30, 2009

Monarch Cats to Butterflies

Metamorphosis is a fascinating process. From an egg to a caterpillar to a chrysalis to a butterfly, the life cycle happens quickly.

If you live in the migration path of the Monarch butterflies, you have an opportunity to provide a habitat so that you can observe this amazing miracle of nature.

Each day, I check the different patches of milkweed in my garden to see if more eggs have hatched. So far this August, there are seven Monarch caterpillars (aka "cats") in my garden. All are on the pink swamp milkweed, asclepias incarnata. I also have white swamp milkweed as well as the orange milkweed, asclepias tuberosa, to serve as host plants.

After the caterpillars eat the foliage on the milkweed plants, they move to another plant nearby as the chrysalis formation begins. The top photo shows a cat that has moved from the milkweed to a purple fountain grass. The grass is growing in a container about ten feet away from the group of milkweed.

Because the milkweed is poisonous, this serves to protect the cats (and butterflies) from being eaten by birds. If a bird takes a bite of a Monarch, it will make them sick and they learn to recognize the Monarch butterfly. The bright orange and black coloring of the Monarch butterfly serves as a warning to the predators. This coloring is a symbol for poison!

Photos and words by Freda Cameron; Location: home garden; August 2009
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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