Earlier this year i was feeling a bit disappointed by the lack of monarch butterflies. Every year we walk along our road and rescue the monarch caterpillars before the county mowers come by and cut down all the milkweed. We have been doing this for years and really enjoy it. With all the change we have experienced this year i've been kind of clinging to our past routines, and raising monarchs in the fall is one that we were always look forward to.
We found it odd that we were not seeing any monarchs this summer. We walked up and down the road, and checked all of the milkweed but we didn't find any caterpillars or eggs. Then the last time we walked up the road all of the milkweed had been cut down, so we knew we would not be seeing any monarch caterpillars this year. Milkweed is their only food source.
Despite the lack of monarch caterpillars, we've been finding lots of other neat caterpillars! Many that we have never seen before here. This is a Black and orange oak worm. My daughter is fearless, she holds all of them..even the ones i'm to squeamish to touch.
This one is a Blinded Sphinx moth caterpillar. He's a strange looking fella in the photo, but he was really a pretty caterpillar. Bright green with some reddish pink speckles.
We found 6 Black Swallowtail caterpillars munching on our carrots.
This is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar. We found him near the mailbox. Yellow Poplar is a food source for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and there is a large tree near the mailbox, so we think he fell out. i wanted to keep him so we could watch him pupate, but it didn't seem to want to eat any of the fresh leaves i'd given him. So we decided to just put him back in a poplar tree.
When i went to put the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail back on a poplar tree, i found this guy sitting quietly on a Sassafrass tree. It's a Spicebush swallowtail caterpillar.
This guy is the prettiest caterpillar i've seen in a while. Those giant eye spots are not really eyes at all. They are spots on his back that give him the appearance of a snake if a predator gets too close. He will tuck his head under, and puff up his back to show off those big 'eyes'.
The Spicebush caterpillar changes color right before he's going to pupate. So we collected the branch he was on, and are keeping it in our makeshift caterpillar habitat with the black swallowtail caterpillars. Hopefully we'll get to observe some pupating caterpillars soon. These caterpillars will stay in their chrysalis all winter, and they will not emerge as until spring.
i have always loved caterpillars and the process of metamorphosis, but never have i felt as connected as i do this year. i am eagerly awaiting my time to pupate, and emerge next spring new and whole again.
"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."- Maya Angelou