It all started one morning this July when I went out to water my flowers. I planted quite a few new perennials this year, and had a few more coming back for their second year. Among those was one of my favorites, butterflyweed or “Asclepias Tuberosa”. You know- the one with bright orange flowers in the milkweed family that you see along the roadside in the summer? Well mine was in full bloom and gorgeous! As I made my way over to this beauty, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. Caterpillars! And not just one or two. I’m talking at least 15 of them all on this one plant! I recognized them as monarch butterfly caterpillars, with their tell- tale black and white stripes on their chunky little yellow bodies. “How cool”! I thought as I carefully watered the plant as to not disturb the little critters as they munched away at the fresh green leaves. The next morning when I went out to water, I checked in on the butterfly weed plant to see how much the little guys had grown overnight. To my surprise, I could only find a measly 3 caterpillars! Where did they go I wondered? I know they wouldn’t be on any of my other plants since they only eat milkweed varieties, and this was my only plant. After a bit of research, I learned that the survival rate of monarch caterpillars in the wild is only about 20%. Most of them are picked off by predators way before they even have a chance to grow into butterflies.
It was then that I decided I was going to help out. I collected the 3 small caterpillars that I found, along with a few small white eggs that were affixed to the underside of the leaves and made them a make- shift home out of an old coffee can. From there, my collection grew and grew, and so did my fascination with these amazing creatures. If you’ve been in the library lately, you know of my obsession! If you’d like to come see them for yourselves, come visit the caterpillars at the library every Tuesday and Friday this month, and every Wednesday and Friday in September. You may also be able to view the chrysalis collection (now at 21) every day the library is open. If you have good timing, you may even get to see a butterfly emerge! I’m always looking for new volunteers to release the monarchs into our reading garden!