This morning, I noticed two tiny monarch caterpillars on the swan plants outside our bedroom window. Here is one of them magnified.
By evening, the caterpillar population had increased to 8; at least that’s how many I could see in the dusk. If the numbers keep increasing at today’s rate, I may have a caterpillar famine on my hands before the end of the week. I hope not. I am hoping, instead, that mother monarch has laid the exact number of eggs for the exact amount of food provided by two swan plants. What are the odds of a monarch mother doing that kind of calculation. Probably rather good, because I find it completely amazing that, amongst all the vast foliage of my garden and neighbourhood gardens, she found my two small, swan plants. I saw her come three times. The first two visits were reconnaissance, I am sure. There was no messing about.She flew straight to the plants, from the direction of the street. When I saw her the third time, she was laying eggs. No Google Maps for this lady; she knew exactly where she was going. So, if she can identify plants so accurately, and select a laying site so carefully, surely she knows the ratio of eggs to plants to optimise offspring survival. Time will tell.
In the meantime, I have been honing my own version of monarch butterfly life skills, by sourcing more free food. Today, I came upon two different plum trees, side by side, with their fruit laden branches conveniently hanging over a parking lot fence. One of the plums is a small yellow fleshed variety and the other is a delicious red skinned, red fleshed plum . I love red plums with their crunchy outer skin and firm, tart interiors. I picked a big bowl full. The problem now is that, as I am the only plum lover in the house, I need more mouths to eat the fruit. I wonder if the caterpillars would care for some plum when the main course of swan is finished?
The colours of plums
Footnote: I wrote this post yesterday but WordPress was being angry and wouldn’t let me insert my photos,so I couldn’t publish. I haven’t counted the caterpillars this morning but I did see a monarch butterfly hovering around the plants. I wonder if it is the same mother returning to check on the progress of her offspring?