When I wandered around my city's artwalk—which had a honeybee theme—one of the local orgs, which is for kids to make art—had a little light-cube full of monarch caterpillars. The director had ordered some monarch eggs so the kids could watch the caterpillars grow, turn into pupae, and then butterflies. But her 10–15 eggs turned out to be 30 odd caterpillars, more than she really wanted.
monarch caterpillar. shot 10sep14, olympus/zuiko macro lens. Afict, even their eyes striped. How cool is that?
I said I had plenty of milkweed plants and would be happy to take one off her hands, and try to rear it. She ended up getting two, and assured that I would be able to feed that many, presented them to me. After reading about the problems of simply setting the caterpillars on plants and letting them do their thing, which unfortunately can lead to pretty intense predation, per the advice of the local Wild Ones list, I rigged up a pickle container with tulle to keep parasitoid wasps, rodents, birds and other predators out. I used the original sauce container for water to keep the leaves hydrated (and provide the caterpillars with drinking water, which so far as I can tell, they don't need, as the leaves evidently provide them with plenty of moisture.) For extra safety I move the container inside at night, especially if it's gonna be really cold.
As the director predicted, one turned itself into a pupa a couple of days later. The other, much smaller is still eating, a week later, but it's getting visibly bigger. Unfortunately the weather has cooled drastically. I hope there will still be enough flower nectar and warmth for the butterflies to make their way south.
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