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Trying to Worm Our Way Out of It

David bought this milkweed plant last fall at H&H Nursery, and since then we’ve enjoyed not only its beautiful blooms, but the evolution of the gorgeous caterpillars that precede the monarch butterflies.


David has the best eye for spotting the tiny things—here is one he spied in its infancy.


Right now there are two tiny caterpillar brothers on the plant. (I’m not sure why I’ve assumed they are male.) We check on them daily and get nervous if we don’t see them, fearing they’ve been devoured by a lizard, wasp, or bird. Milkweed leaves contain cardenolides, a toxin that makes most creatures avoid the caterpillars. However, they’re not immune to prey.


When the caterpillar brothers grow up, they’ll look like this one that was on the plant for a while in November. For a few days we watched it, fascinated, until it vanished. I even gave it a name, Mitchell. We assume Mitchell went on to pupate, the next step before the brilliant monarch emerges. Nonetheless, we were bereft when he was gone.


About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

5 responses »

  1. I’m looking forward to hearing about the further adventures of the caterpillar brothers. Have you named this pair?

  2. Great photos, Treacy.

  3. Wonderful post, Treacy! How fun to see how your planting impacts the larger natural world!

  4. Thanks, Shari and Sally. Sad to report that all worms have gone missing. We suspect a cocky scrub jay that has been lurking around the backyard, looking suspicious. Looks like a juvenile; not yet smart enough to know the worms taste bad.


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