As children we used to collect monarch butterfly caterpillars in August at our uncle’s farm. We nurtured them through the process of becoming mature butterflies, feeding them fresh milkweed leaves and watching them create beautiful green chrysalises. Both butterflies and caterpillars were plentiful. Sandland brother used to collect butterflies along with other creepy things like snakes and spiders in the Don Valley, right in metropolitan Toronto. Since the 1960’s, with suburbs paving over meadows and farmland and extensive use of herbicides and pesticides, the population of monarchs has decreased dramatically. Add to that the deforestation of their winter habitat in Mexico and the species is definitely at risk.
We have acres of milkweed in fields around our home. The Becka and I went out this evening in search of caterpillars. We looked over hundreds of milkweed plants and didn’t find evidence of any larvae at all. Finally, we found a single caterpillar actively munching on a leaf and one adult monarch butterfly flying by too quickly for a picture. The caterpillars are not supposed to have predators as their exclusive milkweed diet makes them toxic to birds. They are susceptible to parasitic infections. I wonder what the chance this lone caterpillar has of wintering in Mexico?
(visit http://magickcanoe.com/blog/2006/08/19/on-becoming-green/ and http://magickcanoe.com/blog/2006/08/14/the-monarch-report/ for some great photos of the monarch cycle)