So my new VCPF, Cherie, and I were at a Fava Bean party yesterday (don't ask). I wandered inside to refill my wine glass (again) when suddenly I heard a high-pitched squeal emanating from the back yard, near the garden. I knew that squeal. But it had never come from outside before, and I knew I needed to get to the bottom of it, and quickly. So I raced out there, nearly spilling my wine (heaven forfend), and found Cherie kneeling in the grass, examining what was left of a big patch of milkweed. She was quivering and pointing.
"Come here!!! Look at this!!!", she shrieked. "Monarchs!!! A shitload of 'em!!!"
I assumed she meant Monarch Butterflies, so I focused (not the easiest thing in the world after six glasses of Vouvray), but couldn't see what she was so excited about. I didn't see one Butterfly -- just a bunch of Caterpillars. I said,
"I don't see one Butterfly. Just a bunch of Caterpillars."
"That's what I'm talkin' about, you bonehead!! Monarch Caterpillars!! Aren't they gorgeous??", she squealed yet again.
I focused again. And boy, was she right! "Gorgeous" is not the word. They were breathtaking! And there were dozens of them -- from the tiniest, half-inch-long guys to big, robust, thick, macho-looking beasts. I vaulted over Cherie and sprinted to my car to grab my camera. And one of the things that first fascinated me was the fact that I literally couldn't tell which end was up with these guys. They sport antennae on their heads AND their butts! I assume this is some kind of weird defense mechanism, but who knows? Maybe it's classic Monarch Caterpillar humor.
"Get over here, big fella, and gimme a kiss. HAH!! That's my butt, you moron!! HAHAHAHAHA!!! Got you again!!!!"
Take a look:
See? Two antennae! Weird, right? Classic.
But then I realized that both ends of the Caterpillar were doing a lot of work. One end was munching and the other was pooping. And it was non-stop action. They were making really short work of this milkweed patch, and I was riveted. Munch. Poop. Munch. Poop.
Meanwhile, Cherie convinced the party-throwing couple to allow her to take three Caterpillars home with her, but don't worry. I know she'll raise them as her own, they'll want for nothing, get the best education money can buy, and live incredibly fulfilling, albeit somewhat short, lives.
When I got back to my place, I jumped on the Internet to learn more about these little beauties. So -- some Fun Facts to Amaze Your Friends about Monarchs:
*One calendar year will produce four generations of Monarch Butterflies.
*The Caterpillars can devour an entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes.
*They gain about 2700 times their original weight in the process. Yes, I said 2700 times their weight. Kinda like Val Kilmer. Have you seen him lately?? Yeesh.
*This kind of voracious appetite means buckets of Monarch Caterpillar poop.
*If you feed Milk Duds to Monarch Caterpillars, instead of milkweed, it can cause real problems: obesity, tooth decay, an insatiable desire to binge-watch "Keeping up With the Kardashians", and so forth.
And before I wrap this up, since we need a boffo ending, here's what develops when Monarch Caterpillars do their thing, naturally (without Milk Duds):