Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bakers Dozen, and Then Some

I was setting the table for dinner and looked out the window for a moment.
I spotted a caterpillar on the Mexican Milkweed.
And then another, and another,
 and another, 
 and another, 
 and another,
 and couple more, get the gist.
 There were many, but I couldn't tell how many through the window.

 I couldn't wait to get through dinner to go out and count.

 I also needed to figure out what butterfly these caterpillars belong to.

 First glance was "Monarch", but monarch cats only have two sets of tentacles (yes, that's really what they're called--I Googled it).  I've always called them 'horn thingies'.

 These all had 3 sets of tentacles.

photo credit: Brooksville Garden club
 Turns out they are Queen Butterfly caterpillars.

 What's interesting to me, it that the butterfly only lays one egg at a time.  That means Mrs. Queen either  laid a lot of eggs at one sitting, or several Queens stopped by the Milkweed nursery.  More likely the later, as these cats were all different sizes.

 In fact, after looking closely at these pictures, I discovered an egg or two that hadn't hatched yet.  Can you find it in the picture above.  Small and white.

The caterpillars are protected from predators in the same way monarch cats are protected---you eat a poisonous plant, you become poisonous yourself.  
Here's what has to say about it:
Some of the milkweeds contain cardiac glycosides which are stored in the bodies of both the caterpillar and adult. These poisons are distasteful and emetic to birds and other vertebrate predators.
In other words, if a bird eats one of these babies, they get to throw up.  

Sounds like reason enough to leave them alone.

These cats will spend 7-10 days in the chrysalis stage and then we start the whole cycle all over again.  

It's magic--right outside the window.


  1. That butterfly that results is beautiful!!

  2. Caterpillars like that ARE magic. Changing from a worm into a butterfly is so inspirational. As much as I like them there is a big line drawn between the ones that eat the weeds and the ones that favor my tomato plants. Bad caterpillars! Bad!

  3. What a cool mother load of beautiful Caterpillar and then butterflies! Thank you so much for sharing!! Let us know how they go and when they hatch out!