Monarch Butterfly caterpillar

A Monarch Butterfly caterpillar on a Hawaiian Crown Flower leaf

Yesterday, I posted about Aphis nerii aphids descending on a Hawaiian Crown Flower (Calotropis gigantea). After they were gone the plant continued to do well for a day or two. Then holes started to appear in the leaves and arcs along the edges.

Closer examination revealed a couple of tiny Monarch Butterfly caterpillars munching their way around the leaves. The Crown Flower is a favorite host for these caterpillars, so this wasn’t a surprise. We were also keen to provide an area for the Monarchs to thrive in. So we let the caterpillars be and monitored the situation.

What happened, not surprisingly, is that the caterpillars grew quickly. As they did so, the leaves of the plant diminished accordingly. I was gone for my weekend, and when I returned, the caterpillars had more than doubled in size. The plant though looked like someone had gone at it with a machete. We wondered if the caterpillars would devour the whole thing before they pupated.

When I returned to work after another weekend, the caterpillars were gone. As the Crown Flower was food for the caterpillars, so it appeared, the caterpillars were food for the numerous birds in the area.

The plant will likely recover from its ravishing and, once it’s bigger, it might be better able to accommodate the attentions of these caterpillars and in turn provide more cover for them from the birds. Or not! I will monitor the situation.

Posted for Becky’s Squares theme of “Walking” (see more responses here).

A Monarch Butterfly caterpillar on a Hawaiian Crown Flower leaf
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23 thoughts on “Monarch Butterfly caterpillar

    1. Graham Post author

      That’s true. It might not have been birds, but they disappeared in a short space of time so something must have got them. I was hoping they were going to pupate but I couldn’t find a trace of them.

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        1. Graham Post author

          I saw a monarch butterfly caterpillar make a chrysalis on a leaf on a ti plant next to the house, a few years ago. I so wanted to see the butterfly emerge, but ti plants grow quickly and drop their lower leaves as they do, and I think the leaf fell before the butterfly emerged. I was so disappointed!

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    1. Graham Post author

      I agree. We were willing to see the plant get ravaged in exchange for new butterflies. The upside is that the plant should get bigger and the butterflies will likely return and lay eggs again. A bigger plant might provide more cover for the caterpillars.

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    1. Graham Post author

      Survival of the biggest in this case I think. There are a lot of birds in this area and the caterplllars were bound to be noticed at some point;.

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    1. Graham Post author

      I was hoping I’d find a chrysalis, but haven’t so far. The positive is that the plant should be OK and get bigger. If other butterflies lay eggs a bigger plant should provide more cover.

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    1. Graham Post author

      I’m not sure they go anywhere, but I looked the plant over pretty closely and didn’t see anything. I’m also hoping that at least one of them went to another plant to pupate.

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