Monarch Caterpillars, Milkweed and WWII

———————-

There has been much concern about the dwindling  numbers of Monarch Butterflies.  An organization called Monarch Watch has been encouraging everyone to plant Milkweed, also know as Butterfly Weed.

I have been planting Butterfly Weed all over the yard.  Unfortunately, a beetle has shown up the last few years and has eaten almost all the plants I grew.  This year I am trying to collect the bugs daily for disposal, as any kind of spraying will also kill the Monarchs.

I was pleased to find many very fat and healthy Monarch Caterpillars on the Butterfly Weed.  This one is eyeing his competition.

 

My main purpose for planting Butterfly Weed is to feed caterpillars.  The plants tend to look pretty bad after awhile.  Interestingly, the plants contain a chemical called cardiac glycoside that cause birds to vomit.  By eating the leaves, the caterpillars are protected from birds.

I find that rabbits and deer also avoid the plant. The most common Butterfly Weed grown here is Asclepias tuberosa, which is tropical/Mexican Butterfly Weed.

The plants produce seed pods filled with seeds attached to fluffy floss that allows them to drift in the wind to a new location.

I recently found out that Milkweed floss had an important role in World War II.  School children from all over the country were sent out to collect the seed pods to make life vests for Navy sailors. Milkweed in the northern U.S. is much larger than the ones that grow in the South and were found growing in fields and along the roads.  The seeds were removed and the floss was used to stuff the vests.

I find it hard to imagine that these vest would stay afloat for long, but I guess that is what they had back then.  While researching, I also found an article with instructions for making a down-like coat using the Milkweed floss for the insulation.  As it turns out, this “weed” is not only necessary for Monarchs, but humans have also found uses for it.


Automatic Renewal

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.


Eat Away…

dsc_0219

little caterpillars.  For once I don’t mind the destruction of my plants.  The garden has been lacking butterflies for the last several years and I am delighted to see the return of a few.  A Monarch has been floating around, probably on its way to Mexico.

dsc_0225

These caterpillars are on the Passion Flower and they are Gulf Fritillarry Caterpillars.  The butterfly is also attracted to the wild Maypops that grow in the area.


Jumping the Gun

IMG_3599

DSC_0256

DSC_0262

A few warm days has stimulated the Indica Azaleas to begin blooming.  Normally, they do not bloom until early or mid-March.  And a Monarch Butterfly appeared in the garden, it is really too soon for butterflies.  The temperatures are dropping again and will  hopefully slow down the blooms.


This and That

DSC_0540Here 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.

DSC_0557A couple of Monarch caterpillars were spotted on the Butterfly Weed and a few Monarch butterflies have been floating through the garden.

IMG_3122Spider webs are everywhere in the garden, making it impossible to walk around without getting tangled in one.  I try to remind myself that it is just silk and hope the spider did not get in my hair.

IMG_3141The Sweet Olive’s scent has been almost overwhelming this year.  The sweet smell poured through the garden and over the house to the front yard.

IMG_3174

Big bees are everywhere.  Here is one on a Confederate Rose.  They are so busy that it is easy to photograph and watch them.

IMG_3170

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.


Flashback Friday

And the seasons they go round and round

It seems unbelievable that Autumn is almost here.  On the Gulf Coast it is really hard to tell as the changes are very subtle.  Temperatures can still hit the 90’s and the flowers are blooming or reblooming (they like to rest for summer). If you garden here long enough, the changes become more obvious.

One change is the arrival of migrating hummingbirds and butterflies.  My flashback is to a post about nature providing fuel just in time for the migrating creatures.

Fuel…

 


Monarch Update

Good news from Monarch Watch.  The number of Monarch Butterfly sightings and egg count have increased.  It is not as high as in the past, but the population has grown this year.  Monarch Watch is asking that Milkweed be planted in the migration corridor from Minnesota through Texas for the fall migration to Mexico.

DSC_0323

Although it may be too late to plant, unless a full grown plant can be found, plan ahead for the Monarchs’ journey north next spring.

I had a some visiting butterflies in the spring and spotted a few caterpillars.  My Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is ready and waiting.

Go to Monarch Watch ( http://monarchwatch.org ) for more information.