Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Caterpillar Rescue

I did not make it to the farm last weekend before the brushhog hit all of the fields. Bummer. My plan was to go through all of the milkweed plants and search for Monarch caterpillars so I could save any I found. Instead, my sweet husband gave his tour of the farm to his younger brother, Uncle Mikey, and his girlfriend Giovanna, with four kids tagging along, while I spent 45 minutes pulling every milkweed plant out of the chopped grass to search each leaf for caterpillar or egg.

Talk about tedious work. The picture above was one of the few plants that was still growing and just bend over. Most were chopped off and lying under piles of grass. Individual leaves, sections of plants, creamy white milk from the plants sticking grass leaves everywhere. I wasn't expecting large caterpillars, as the brushhog made a pass a couple of months ago, so the milkweed was just growing back. And I certainly did not find a large caterpillar. I found a very teeny caterpillar, perhaps hatched only that day or the day before, on the broken-off top of a very small milkweed plant.

Max has named her Greeny-Head. Lovely, I think. She was so small that she was barely visable, and there was only a tiny hole, which you can see in uppermost leaf in the above picture, that was testiment she had been arond for not so long. Saturday was the day of caterpillar rescue, and today, three days later, I finally got to take Greeny-Head's picture.

I am functioning on a mostly caput battery, which will only let me take a few photos after hours of charging, so my photography has been limited (which is driving me bonkers, as I'm sure you can imagine). Greeny-Head has at least tripled in size since we found her three days ago. For reference for the above photo, her milkweed plant is in an old baby food jar of which there are many at the farm, and the leaf that she is chewing on is 3 inches across where she is resting.

Here is a closer crop for you. She is absolutely precious in our minds. On a sad note, I actually found two caterpillars Saturday. The second was on a larger plant, but even smaller in size. While transporting them both, the ride was bumpy, so I had Kane and Max holding the jars. When Max fell asleep and Bella took over his jar, that caterpillar was missing. By the time we made it home, all four children were sound asleep. Within minutes of looking I found the caterpillar clinging desperately to Max's seat belt. I managed to get her off and back onto the plant, which is not an easy job with a caterpillar that is barely visable, let me tell you. But in the morning she was nowhere to be seen. I have not been able to find her on the plants, although there is some chance that she is down in some of the smaller plants, as there are many in that jar. I wanted to make sure they had plenty of plants to munch on while they grew. I'm hoping that we find signs of her survival soon.

Greeny-head will grow for another 6-10 days, in which time she will go from her 1/8 inch size to her full 2 inch size, before she is ready to build her beautiful minty green chrysalis with its golden decorations. We are excited to have the ability to watch her grow and see her emerge as a graceful Monarch, and we look forward to sharing that experience with you here. We are heading out in the morning to stay with my parents, as Bella and Kane are in Theater Camp there. We then have to prepare for Kane's 6th birthday party the day after we get back, so I wish you all a happy weekend, and we will send an update on Greeny-Head as soon as we can! Stay tuned!

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