Monarch caterpillars on a milkweed plant.

Milkweeds and Monarchs Part 3

Reading time: 2 Minutes
Large Monarch caterpillars ©jcleveland

You can see two little heads popping up between the leaves in this photo. 

Part 3 of 4

Previous posts here: Part 1Part 2

It took a few weeks before my stumpy plants started to flourish and grow. During that time, I was a hawk when it came to invading aphids and marauding milkwood bugs. If I saw them, I physically removed them from the plant and destroyed them. I read where if you spray the plants with soapy water, which is my ‘go to’ method of pest removal, I would also be killing any eggs or caterpillars that may appear on the plant.

To be honest, I walked away from the plants for awhile because I had other things I was doing. Since the big pot sat outside my back door, I saw the plants every day, but didn’t spend a lot of time on it.

My neglect was exactly what was needed to ensure that I would have some caterpillars.

I watched a couple of eggs hatch, and realized that if I was going to save any of these beauties, I needed to enclose them to protect them from whatever was munching on them. My woodworking husband took up the challenge and built a screened in 3’x2’x2’ cage to go over the plants. He built is as a rectangle because I only needed to cover the plants, but gave no thought to any open areas on the so-called “cage”. That would become a problem later when caterpillars got frisky.

This was my first shot at this, so everything was a new experience, and we learned as we went along. Like herding cats, literally, cats, these guys would go everywhere when they got towards their chrysalis time, and open spaces around the pot were fair game. I thought that because there were tall walls on the pot that they would not climb out. That was dumb. They have a million legs and jet propulsion when they’re hungry.

By the time we had them corralled, we had three out of six left in the container.

Then the storm hit.

Continued in part 4

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