Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Few Good Reasons To Plant Milkweed

Danaus plexippus
You will soon discover Monarch cats dining at the asclepias table! In this case A incarnata or Swamp Milkweed is hosting the dinner. You may have your own favorite milkweed to serve, but, here at Clay and Limestone, A incarnata has passed the test and is bringing diners in at an astonishing pace.
Proving that if you plant it they will come; and, there won't just be one of them, but many.

They are fascinating looking critters.

The caterpillar/larva are banded with white/cream, black, and yellow stripes.

It has three pairs of thoracic legs and five pairs of prolegs.

It has 2 pairs of sensory tentacles, one pair on the head and another pair near the end of the abdomen.

Soon~They'll stop eating and attach themselves, head downward, to a nearby twig; shed their outer skin; and, transform to a chrysalis. That transformation takes a few hours. I will be watching to see when the chrysalis process begins, so we can then watch the cat pupate to butterfly!

Isn't nature miraculous and amazing!

PS Because it bears repeating, if you want pollinators in all stages of their life cycle~plant host plants and never, never, never, ever use pesticides. I do mean never.

This post is also part of a series on native pollinators in the garden~ Earlier posts and their links are listed below for your convenience.

Part I~Now Is The Time To Bee-gin Thinking About Bees ( here)
This Is The Place To Bee ( here)
If You Could Plant Only One Plant In Your Garden~Don't (here)

Must Bee The Season of The Witch (here)
Go Bare In Your Garden (here)
We can't All be pretty Pollinators (here)
Eye, Eye Skipper, Big Eyed Pollinators (here)
What's In Your Garden (here)
Carpenter Bees (here)
Got Wildflowers?(here)
It's Spring and A Gardener's Thoughts Are On Pollinators (here)
The Wildflower and The Bee (here)

Other bee posts you might want to read~
Count Yourself Lucky To Have Hoverflies (here)
Bumblebee Hotel (here)
Still Taking Care Of Bzzness (here)
My Sweet Embraceable You (here)

This post was written by Gail Eichelberger for my blog Clay and Limestone Copyright 2011.This work protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. Oh I do hope you will see lots of chrysalis soon. I counted 16 on my butterfly weed the other day and they ate it down in less than two days. Amazing! Super close-ups!

  2. Such great close-ups of the lovely creature! I have only tiny white butterflies in my garden, but they never stay long enough on the flowers for me to photograph them yet!

  3. I have plans to plant milk weed this year. I hope some monarchs move in.

  4. That looks like one happy caterpillar!

    I saw some of the senicio in my neighbor's yard when I was cutting it. I thought darn~! I should dig it up and plant it in my garden. It may be coming back so I might get it. A lovely plant and grows in shade looks like. Learned about it from you!

  5. Tina, Go back and get it~Or the next time you and I attend the PPS, I can bring you a bit. gail

  6. I hope to spy these gorgeous caterpillars on my milkweed this year...once it is up that is...with all the rain we are still delayed in the garden...

  7. Wow, you do have cats! My wife saw a monarch a few days ago, but no eggs on our 2" milkweed yet, which is fine.

  8. It reminds me of a creature from "Doctor Doolittle," the "Pushmi-pullyu," How can you tell which end is the front?

  9. Oh Gail!! I so love those little critters!! It is so great to see your fabulous photos of the Monarch caterpillar! It sure lifts my spirits. What a treat and who knows . . . just maybe this fellow or lass (which rhymes with frass) tending the butterfly within itself . . . may end up in my garden later on as a butterfly and lay eggs here! I look forward to watching your next posts! He/she sure looks nearly full! Keep an eye out for a triple linked frass. ;>)) PS. You do not need any photography lessons my dear! Wonderful post.

  10. Definitely in the top 3 reasons why I planted this great perennial. :)

  11. What great photos Gail. I have some milkweed in my garden. I wouldlike to have some more. Maybe this year.

  12. Your macro shots are wonderful. These little chewing machines are quite the busy crew. Don they leave anything?

  13. Gail,
    We've got lots of monarch caterpillars in our Asclepias syriaca (both in my home meadow and the South Carolina Botanical Garden) -- totally cool.

    It's been a joy to see the monarchs seek out plants as they've come by this spring, finding plants and laying eggs.

    Got Milkweed? reads one of my 'bumper stickers'!


  14. Oh my what big stripes you have mr cat.

    Gorgeous, and so interesting to see them close up. We have a few Monarchs in the summer,but I have never seen them hang around.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  15. Stunning/great images, Gail. You are blessed!

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  17. Wow, amazing. It almost makes the butterflies look boring.

  18. Wonderful shots, Gail. My Asclepias are just now emerging from the ground.

  19. Fantastic photos Gail. What an exciting process to watch.

  20. This is such a lovely post Gail.
    The caterpillar has wonderful colouration.....so fascinating to watch a creature at work. They are lovely images.

    I now have milkweed growing in the garden. Rose gave me some seeds a few years ago. Milkweed fits well among the native wildflowers that grow here in the garden.

  21. Planting some this week, if it doesn't snow.

  22. We love to scoop them up and place them in our butterfly house to watch this beautiful transformation up close without the threat of wasps..

  23. Oh my Gail! Your garden is filled with baby butterflies!!You have quite the job keeping watch over these sqiggly munching machines!
    Wishing you a Happy Mother's Day!

  24. These are excellent reasons to plant Milkweed!

  25. I have never been so up close and personal with a caterpillar before. Great photos-It was amazing to see.

  26. It is amazing Gail!

    I've tried several kinds of milkweed here without success. Only one - the purple milkweed keeps coming back. This will be its third year, and I'm hoping it's mature enough now to support cats and blooms.

  27. Great pics Gail. That is one thing I need to add to my garden, I'm working on re arranging planting so I can squeeze more varieties of plants out there. I also need more bees. I'm thinking about talking hubby into beekeeping since I never see honeybees in our yard.

    He seems to have come around when I was talking chickens, he was talking about building me a coop this year.

  28. Hi Gail,

    Yes, nature is miraculous and amazing! I can't wait until the Monarchs begin showing up in my yard! Great post & photos!


  29. Yay! I have been away from this location for a while and just noticed today that I still have milkweed coming up where I planted it a long time ago.

  30. I can't beleive you already have monarchs!!! My milkweed is still coming up and the monarchs don't arrive until August. But I have a lot of milkweed waiting for them when they get here. :o)

  31. Amazing photos, Gail. Monarchs are beautiful in all stages, aren't they?

    I have a series of slides I've meant to get scanned (for ages!) of the entire Monarch pupation process. Even got to watch the butterflies hatch at sunrise. One day, a post.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson