Natural Highlights: Notable Caterpillars

  Monarch Butterfly larvae on Swamp Milkweed

The new butterfly beds established by Gold Star Girl Scout Nathalie Prior and her mom, Minette, at the Lucius Burch trailhead area have been around for less than a year but are already hosting an astonishing number of butterflies and caterpillars. Butterfly expert Rita Venable, in town for our butterfly lecture last week, said she had never seen so many Monarch caterpillars in one place before. Several of the swamp milkweed plants in the beds have been stripped clean of foliage by hungry Monarch larvae and, in the switchgrass planted nearby, distinctive green and gold Monarch pupae can be seen hanging among the stems.  Gulf Fritillary butterflies have also found the passionvine which is now covered with their orange caterpillars, and there are plenty of other pollinators visiting the beds, too.

The high concentration of Monarch caterpillars in these brand new beds suggests that there may be very little milkweed present in the surrounding habitat.  It's also likely that higher numbers of Monarchs and other species are drawn to the remnants of natural habitat found along the urban river.  Forest, field and river and wetland habitats can all be found at the Lucius Burch trailhead.

Our education pages will soon include resources on gardening for butterflies and a list of the plants used to create these beds. We congratulate Nathalie on a job well done, and our thanks to FedEx for funding the FedEx-National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Five Star Grant which made this project possible!


One of the butterfly beds established in the parking lot at the Lucius Burch trailhead.

  Many larvae and no leaves left to eat!


    Monarch chrysalis

     Gulf Fritillary caterpillars

Posted by Cathy Justis at 12:56 PM