Monarchia!

Posted by Gerry Monteux on

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):

 

 

  

 


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