I collected these Monarch caterpillars, but not for my lunch. I found them on some sick looking Butterfly Weed with few leaves and moved them to healthier plants so the babies could have their lunch.
This big and beautiful Monarch is probably from a previous batch of caterpillars I found a few weeks ago.
The last time I was away from home, I came back to a killing freeze. Most of the plants had to be cut back. In this climate, many plants usually stay green for the winter. The Automatic Garden looked hopeless. I spent many hours cleaning up, reevaluating and moving plants around. I walked the garden several times a day checking on the plants’ progress and watching them grow inch by inch.
Recently, I had another trip and this time I came back to a much happier reunion. While I was away, it rained and the days heated up. The Automatic Garden did its job and not only filled in, but put out blooms.
The faithful perennials of Black and Blue Salvia and Shrimp Plant came back bigger and better.
Butterfly Weed wasted no time and quickly bloomed, allowing a passing Monarch to leave her eggs for the next generation.
I had seeded a few annuals, along side the reliable garden staples, for some early color. Spring is an anticipated a time of renewal and the Automatic Garden did not disappoint.
Here are a snapshots taken with my cell phone while working in the garden this Autumn. The Green Rose (Rosa chinensis viridiflora) is blooming. The bush was suffering, but is now having a comeback. The flowers smell like pepper.
Big bees are everywhere. Here is one on a Confederate Rose. They are so busy that it is easy to photograph and watch them.
I was finishing another chore, when I glanced down and saw all the seeds scattered from the wild ageratum. Those were only the seeds that fell outside of the bed! I guess that is why wildflowers/weeds do so well. At least this blue ageratum is pretty.
The Monarch Butterfly is on the decline and may to added to the endangered species list. Some of the reasons for their decline is deforestation of their winter home in Mexico, increased crop production and pesticide use throughout the continent. But, there is also a lack of weeds, Milkweed that is.
These beautiful winged creatures make an amazing 3,000 mile trip from Canada to Mexico. One individual will make the entire trip from Canada, but it takes up to four generations to return from Mexico. They need Milkweed to lay their eggs on, as it is the Monarch caterpillars’ food. Wild flowers are also an important nectar source for the trip.
You can easily help the butterfly by planting more Milkweed, also called Butterfly Weed. Some areas are even giving out free seed or plants. Milkweed is easy to grow (it is not called weed for nothing). Different varieties grow in different parts of the continent. Find out what works for you area and also add some wildflowers. Don’t give up if the Monarch don’t show up immediately or even this year, eventually they will find it.
A great documentary on the Monarch migration can be found online from the PBS show, Journey of the Butterflies.
This lucky Ladybug was hanging out on the Butterfly Weed. I do believe her belly is full.
Aphids have taken over the plants and only one lucky Ladybug has found them.
Meanwhile, a rather large Monarch caterpillar was below munching leaves.
Monarch Butterflies spotted the sign and stopped at the Waystation. Most of them looked faded and ragged, which may indicate that they have migrated from Mexico or a warmer part of Texas. The arrival of the Monarchs was a welcome site, as very few have been seen in the Automatic Garden after being in a drought for several years.
Of course, if helps to have the Monarch’s favorite Milkweed or Butterfly Weed available. It is the plant the butterflies lay their eggs on to ensure another generation will continue the journey.
The Monarch Caterpillar can munch through quite a few Butterfly Weed plants before forming their chrysalis. Check out Monarch Watch by going to the website on the sign.