In early August, my mom gifted us a beautiful tropical milkweed plant, which has apparently been quite popular with the monarchs. We planted it in our backyard already aware of a couple monarch butterfly eggs on the plant. I spotted our first monarch caterpillar of the year on August 11 and went back to the plant every day afterwards to make sure he was still accounted for. As the caterpillar got big enough to stop hiding on the underside of the milkweed leaves, I came to realize that I may not have been checking in on the same caterpillar each day! I counted six, seven, EIGHT caterpillars at once in various stages on this milkweed.
Toward the middle of August, they started disappearing one by one (presumably to pupate; they were about the right size), until just the youngest ones remained including a new one that showed up on our native milkweed plant in another part of the yard.
Monarch chrysalis’s can be really difficult to spot since they are green and less than an inch in length. I did find one, which was built right on the milkweed but sadly, something disturbed it over the night and I saw it on the ground, slightly smushed the next day.
There are so many predators of monarch caterpillars from disease, to wasps and ants, and even themselves that only an estimated 1-5% of monarch eggs make it to butterfly-hood. Despite the odds, I remain hopeful that at least one of the nine caterpillars I’ve spotted this past month survives!