My adorable wife Anne comes through the front door excitedly and announces that there are caterpillars on our milkweed plants, but they are not monarchs. She tells me they look similar but seem to be another species.
I follow her to the corner of our house where a sickly milkweed plant is struggling to survive after it was nearly completely devoured by monarch caterpillars a few weeks earlier. She lifts the leaves to show me three tiny caterpillars munching on the leaves. I agree that it is not a monarch, snap a few pictures and come in the house to research what it could be.
It did not take me long to discover that the caterpillars were queen butterfly larvae that eat milkweeds just like monarchs do. After all, they are related.
We checked on the caterpillars the next day and it is amazing how fast these caterpillars grow. One was not looking great. The back half of it was turning black probably from some virus or parasite. We brought the two remaining caterpillars into the safety of a butterfly “cage” with some milkweed so that I can photograph the chrysalids the caterpillars will form to turn into butterflies.
To be continued…