Monarchs on Milkweed


We typically have some milkweed growing in our field. For the past couple of years I have made a point to try to leave some standing when I mow. Since Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed I wanted to make sure they can keep doing their thing.  For the past couple of years we have had no Monarch caterpillars on that milkweed.

This year I wanted to just mow everything. Saving the milkweed means saving some of the wild parsnip, and I want that stuff gone. So I just cut it all. The milkweed, however, perhaps because I mowed early enough, came back. And now we have Monarchs.

We found a caterpillar in a neighboring field recently and that made us more vigilant in searching our own. We found one caterpillar, then another, then another. Yesterday my spouse and I took a walk down the road. On the way out we found half a dozen on milkweed plants along our driveway. On our way back we looked again. We found eleven.

I am not sure if they are just doing better this year, or maybe cutting the milkweed actually helped. Maybe the younger plants are more appealing to them. In any case, those critters are thriving in our field. And they are cool-looking–wiggly and fat and striped with those waving antennae. Looking through the milkweed now is like searching for treasure. Plump, squishy, pre-butterfly treasure.

Before long those caterpillars will hole up for a bit and pop out of cocoons as butterflies. Then they will haul their fragile little selves down to Mexico for the winter. That is amazing, and don’t you even think it isn’t. The milkweed will go to seed after the butterflies depart. The seed pops will burst with floating white seed parachutes. I will crack open the pods and toss those seeds to the wind.  All of us in the house do this every year. We try to spread the milkweed to help the Monarchs. Apparently it helped last time.

Today it has been raining. I am sure the caterpillars are tucked under leaves, chewing their way through their own roofs. We have mostly stayed inside–reading, doing Algebra homework, paying bills, cobbling together lunch. Tomorrow we will look again for those yellow and white and black wrigglers. Finding eleven of them at once was a household record. I am hoping we can break it.

Pics From Space and a Cool Beetle

New images were just released from the Hubble telescope, the first since the spring, when some repairs were made.  You can read a New York Times article here to learn more.  Here is one of the images:

Abell 370 Galaxy Cluster

Abell 370 Galaxy Cluster

Look up into the night sky (if you live in a place that isn’t so flooded with light that you can’t see the night sky) and you can see more stars than you can count.  On a clear night, even here so close to so many lights, I can see the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon.  I get, well, starstruck sometimes.  But this photo isn’t of stars, it is of galaxies.  There are too many galaxies to count.  And each one of them contains countless stars.  And eac star is too big to truly comprehend.  It can make one dizzy.

Jupiter is just visible as I write this, rising in the east.  It has been hanging around our skies for many nights lately.  If I could see over the hill to the west I might have seen Saturn or even Mercury just after the sun set.  Dang hill.

The world itself, this planet Earth of ours, is too vast to grasp.  I can’t really fathom 6 1/2 billion people, or the depth of the ocean, or the dryness of the Gobi Desert, or camels.  And look at that picture.  How many worlds are there just within its frame?  How can there not be life out there somewhere? The odds are with us on that one.  It seems almost impossible that there wouldn’t be life beyond Earth.

I saw a beetle today I had never seen before–yellow and black and green with stripes.  Check it out:

Cool Beetle

Cool Beetle

Isn’t that amazing enough?  And the milkweed on which it sits–isn’t there discovery in the shape and color and structure of those leaves?  Countless immense galaxies and tiny new beetles to be gazed upon.  I’ve got more than enough wonder for many lifetimes.