I have Monarch caterpillars! Six at last count, and I'm so pleased. I've been trying to get them for a couple of years. Not the greatest photos, but if you click on them, you can make them bigger and see at least two caterpillars in each photo. In the first photo, there's one on a butterfly weed plant, and one on a dead piece of vegetation.
A couple of years ago I ordered some milkweed seeds and planted them in our stone flower bed. But it's too shady there and while they would feebly sprout and grow a little, they were never very happy. This year I successfully transplanted some of those sprouts. Last year I noticed one "wild" butterfly weed plant along the semi-wooded area on the edge of our fence. It produced one seed pod, and I harvested those. After sharing with a friend, I ended up with 26 seeds, about 7 of which actually sprouted this year. Those were added to the transplants. The sprouts and transplants were placed in the ground on the non-wooded sunny side of our driveway fence after we got back from Idaho, and they took off!
In addition, last year I only had one seed pod on the wild plant, and this year there are seven! Here's a photo of some of them:
So with luck I'll have more sprouts to add to the patch next year. Why do I care? Well, Monarch butterflies are, I believe, the only breed that makes a round trip migration of thousands of miles. They're pretty amazing insects. These caterpillars will leave rural Tennessee in a couple of weeks as adult Monarchs, and they'll fly all the way to Mexico or Southern California. And next spring they'll fly back to breed.
These beautiful butterflies need conservation help, because of loss of habitat and the food sources that grow in those habitats. The caterpillars, you see, only eat species of milkweed (of which butterfly weed is one). I've noticed several places here in my little corner of rural Tennessee where the bright orange butterfly weed is plentiful along the roadsides. But our roadsides get mowed. So I'm planting the stuff where it won't get mowed.
And after two years of trying, I might be able to send 6 Monarch butterflies to Mexico. And maybe they'll come back to see me in the spring!
If you'd like to read more, and find out how you can help with Monarch conservation, see these websites:
Knitting? Oh yeah. One cool tip I got from the new Cat Bordhi sock book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters, is a better way to swatch in the round. I HATE swatching in the round, especially for Fair Isle work. Or rather, I DID hate it. Piece of cake after reading Cat's helpful tip (hint: it involves Judy's Magic Cast On( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhBIS0AhhQY
). My swatching in progress:
Labels: butterfly weed, caterpillars, Monarch butterflies, swatching in the round