Since we are considering an addition to our house in the near future (square footage, people, not two little feet), we haven't ripped out the existing plants and gone full steam ahead with our plan to turn the garden outside our living room into a full blown butterfly smorgasbord. However, we definitely wanted to encourage the butterflies to come to our house, and come they have!
Two weeks ago I counted over 36 monarch caterpillars on our six little milkweed plants. I made an emergency food run during nap time one day to replinish the stash, because we didn't want to lose any caterpillars. I even had the guy at Palmer's take off the hitchiker caterpillars because we didn't want any more mouths to feed. They've all gone to chrysalis and since come out and flown away, but apparently they have decided to have babies. See?
The little white things on the leaves above are just three of the many, many eggs I counted earlier today when we were out playing with the butterflies. It appears that a run to Palmer's will be in order again in just a few days.
At the top of the most prominent leaf in this picture is a very tiny monarch caterpillar. It's just about a centimeter long. This photo makes him look huge! Earlier today he was still an egg, and after naps today I checked again, and there was this little guy. He will quickly eat me out of house and home.
This is what the flowers of Milkweed look like. We don't get to see them too often, especially when we have 36 very hungry caterpillars to feed. Seriously, Monarch caterpillars will eat every part of a Milkweed plant, including the flowers (which the Monarch butterfly drinks necter from) to the seed pods (necessary for producing more Milkweed). One would think that caterpillars would be a little less agressive with the plant that nourishes them as butterflies and tries to repopulate the earth so it can grow new plants for its offspring.
So, yes, a trip to Palmer's is in our near future. Although we can't offer much for the butterflies as far as variety because we are constrained by space, they seem very happy to live in our garden. We have spent hours out there with the caterpillars, holding them and watching them eat, grow, turn to chrysalis and then butterfly. The boys have learned so much about butterflies this spring. It's been a great experience!