As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved the look of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), and as much as these orange, black and white butterflies with their white-spotted black bodies are used in motifs throughout the ages, I’m not alone in my fascination with them.
The monarch was an important cultural symbol of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, and Tula warriors wore the monarch on their breastplates. The butterfly was added to stamps, frescos and ceramics of the Teotihuacan people.
This stands to reason considering that Mexico is the migratory destination of these colorful creatures. They can cover thousands of miles to get to Mexico.
The International Space Station even raised a few monarchs in space.
Since we try to include as many native species of plants, trees and flowers in our yard, we see a large assortment of butterflies as they migrate through, as well as our native butterflies like the zebra butterfly. I have tried to plant only Florida milkweed, to not disrupt the natural cycle of the monarch. Every year, I have planted or tried to raise from seed a selection of milkweed that invites the monarch to lay eggs. Every year, I see a few caterpillars, and then they are gone.
This year, I decided to move my annual milkweed purchase into a large pot on the back porch where I could monitor it. I bought a pink and an orange flower from reputable nurseries and set up my monarch watching station.
It did not take long before I started to see aphids show up. I try not to upset the natural order of things (see the movie The Biggest Little Farm for information on why you should not upset things), to keep nature in balance. I decided to leave the aphids and let nature take its course.
That might have been a great idea for the aphids and then the invading milkweed bugs, but it didn’t do my prospective monarchs any favors. While I resisted doing anything about the invading bugs, beetles and other creatures, I monitored the plants for monarch eggs. I was very happy to see that I had both eggs and a few quarter-inch caterpillars moving about my milkweed.
Until I didn’t.
part 1 of 4
Read part 2 here