Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Monarch Journey

I could not find the larger of the two monarch caterpillars yesterday morning. I found that the smaller one had shed its skin and took that as a good sign. My son came out onto the front porch as I was looking for the bigger one and told me that there was a caterpillar on one of the chairs. Since it was attached to the chair arm and beginning to go into the "J" position to form the chrysalis, I decided to leave it alone and put some cord on the chair to keep people from sitting in it. I was really looking forward to watching the rest of the metamorphosis.

I was surprised to find it on the chair because I had already covered the milkweed with tulle after finding the caterpillar under one of the leaves. I wondered how it had managed to get from the plant to the chair. I did leave a small portion of the plant uncovered a few inches from the ground. The caterpillar would have to crawl across the flowerbed, up the brick, across the porch, and up onto the arm of the chair. One of the black swallowtail caterpillars had done a similar escape act from the butterfly cage I'd made earlier in the summer and made its way up to a plant hanger hook at the top of the porch, but it only had to crawl up the length of the cage to the hook where the cage was hanging. I've never had them do this before.

This photo gives you an idea of the journey the caterpillar made from the milkweed to the chair. PetCat contemplates the caterpillar's journey, too.

Unfortunately, later when I returned home around 2:00 in in the afternoon, I discovered that the caterpillar was not doing so well. It was limp and had straightened out. I feared the worst. I checked it out as best I could and was not hopeful. I left it overnight and by morning was certain that it was dead.

I removed it from the arm of the chair and put it under some mulch near the base of the milkweed plant. I have been unsuccessful in locating the smaller caterpillar this afternoon and have not spotted any smaller (or larger) ones on either of the plants. Perhaps others will hatch and grow into butterflies to make the flight to Mexico.


  1. What a welcoming and hospitable yard for wildlife you have! We have primarily lavender, rosemary, and nandina and I have yet to see anyone's cocoons. Hope you find more.

  2. oh I'm sorry that the caterpillar seems not to have made it. I hope the other one successfully makes it to adulthood

  3. too bad about the would be nice if they could ALL make it...i'll bet the smaller one you couldn't nice and safe in a cocoon! (maybe the one was just exhausted from his long journey from plant to porch...maybe he'll re-energize after you relocated him back to the plant...) :) you're lucky to have the beautiful monarchs!!

  4. Monarch Mothering is a tough job ...

  5. What a shame about the poor caterpillar Melissa unless, of course, he is just resting after his exhausting journey.

  6. Oh that's too bad bunnits! I guess that was just a sad part of nature this time. I think I've only seen one monarch this year.