Yesterday the garden club for our local elementary school started with the first day of a group of young eager gardeners. Last year, one of the children was very interested in butterflies and their life cycle. I brought in several of the photographs that I have taken in our own yard sharing the life cycle through photographs. She was very excited, and we decided to start a small butterfly garden within the vegetable garden.
The reason I mentioned all this, is this year she told me that her teacher saw my photographs and decided the children would raise caterpillars in the classroom so they can see and learn the life cycle in person. She also said she has milk weed at her home. Wonderful! I've achieved a great mile stone as the monarch caterpillars are in need of everyone's help. Their numbers are declining, the milk weed population is decreasing, and that's the ONLY plant a monarch butterfly will lay eggs on. One little itty bitty white egg on the underside of the leaf. Each leaf gets an egg, but only one egg. The leaf the egg is laid on will feed the baby caterpillar for several days before it needs to travel for additional food.
Many of the caterpillars don't make it. They get eaten by other bugs including wasps, which I unfortunately saw first hand but wasn't able to stop the cycle of nature. After reading another person's blog (Tony Gomez) about monarch caterpillars, I realized I still have much to learn about these wonderful creatures fluttering around in my yard. I don't often include links to others websites because they can become dead links in my blog, but here's the one for Tony if you want more details http://monarchbutterflygarden.net/
Here's my first attempt to photograph a monarch butterfly egg - I watched the butterfly lay the eggs, otherwise I would have no idea these little eggs were on the plant. See the little white object with the vertical lines going down the sides? That's the egg (the rest is debris on the bottom of the leave or dust on my sensor-ugh). Think about this, the average vertical length of a milkweed leave is about 2 inches on my plants. This egg I can't even see without a lot of blowing it up. If you look at a leaf, this photograph is only showing a small portion of the leaf, not even even as much as you would see if you were looking between 2 vertical veins in the leaf. That's small!
Here's a larger portion of the milkweed leaf, although, still not the entire leaf and if you look closely, you can see the little white egg that is on the underside of this leaf.
These grow up to be caterpillars - this is not the same 'egg' hatched to be a caterpillar but here's another fairly large caterpillar (about 1.5 inches) eating away. The picture is not upside down, but rather the caterpillar is hanging upside down as it is eating the milkweed leaf.
Here's another picture a little further away to help give you some perspective.
The last photograph shows almost the entire caterpillar. If I wanted to share the entire caterpillar, I would have needed to remove a leaf, and that's well - part of this little fella's food, so the leaf stayed!
Soon this caterpillar will wonder off to prepare for the next stage of life. Since I leave my caterpillars in the wild, I may not know where it goes to do that but hopefully it will become a beautiful monarch butterfly flying around in our backyard within a few weeks.
For more photographs of Wildlife, visit our gallery for wildlife photographs. http://www.vpshoots.com/wildlife
Until next time,
VP Shoots Photography