My school year began with a dress of butterflies, so maybe it was a divine wink that sent monarch and queen caterpillars my way a few weeks ago.
This was actually the second round of caterpillars that hatched on my potted milkweed on the back porch. The first set, all queens, presumably got eaten by birds while I wasn't looking. I was sad, but too busy dealing with the aphids that followed to dwell on their demise. I (mistakenly, I found out later) chopped back the milkweed to get rid of the aphids, and forgot about my aspirations of butterfly nurturing for the season.
My husband needed help moving the patio furniture three weekends ago. There were a few new leaves sprouting from the stubby milkweed stems. Lo and behold, more than a dozen caterpillars were munching away--and this time, there were monarchs in the bunch!
I hurriedly concocted a shield of sorts from two chairs and a frost cover, in hopes of keeping the birds at bay. The sparse leaves were rapidly being eaten, so I visited the local nursery to purchase a healthier milkweed plant, and spent the better part of a Sunday afternoon carefully transferring my charges to their new buffet.
Each morning and afternoon, I checked on my "children", as my husband was now calling my crawlers. Sixteen caterpillars dwindled to ten, and ten to six, before I decided to intervene by collecting them in a jar.
Within days, they started hanging in a J-formation, and turned into chrysalises within twenty-four hours--the first four in unison, and then the last two, after a few more leaves and molts.
The jar was getting moldy from the frass (caterpillar poop), so I had to relocate the chrysalises to my crudely made butterfly-hatching box. Thank goodness for the internet, as I wouldn't have known how to extricate the two that were attached to the glass.
And now, we just wait! It could be another week before we see the chrysalises darken and the telltale stripes and spots appear. Fingers crossed that I've done a good job "parenting" my caterpillars, and they all get their wings to fly soon!