We've featured queen butterfly caterpillars before, but each time we observe them, we learn something new.
How many caterpillars do you see on this young rush milkweed plant? Where are they on the plant and what are they doing?
We've noticed queen caterpillars often feed on the unopened flower buds. Those are the parts that disappear first.
This photograph has a few extra features. Let's look more closely.
What's that shiny white bump at the base of the bud on the top of the stem?
That is a hatched queen butterfly egg. Bonus points if you can find the shed exoskeleton from a previous molt.
The caterpillar in the lower middle of the first photograph of this post has finished off the flower buds. What does it have to eat?
What is the caterpillar doing?
It is crawling out to the tip of what serves as leaves on a rush milkweed.
Now it begins to eat. Any guesses why it might start at the tip?
It doesn't take long. By the time I've taken a few more photographs, the "leaf" is gone.
If you'd like to see the rest of the life cycle, try the queen butterfly emerges post.
Did you identify the insects we found on common milkweed?
A. The beetles are red milkweed beetles, Tetraopes tetrophthalmus. They are a type of longhorned beetle.
The bright red and black adults are easy to spot. They make a squeaking sound if they are captured.
The larvae are not as easy to find. They feed on the roots of milkweed plants under the soil.
B. This is a Baltimore checkerspot butterfly. Do you see the orange tips on its antennae?
The caterpillars are orange and black as well.
The Baltimore checkerspot larvae do not feed on milkweeds. They eat other wildflowers, like hairy beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus), and English plantain (Plantago lanceolata).
Have you ever seen these insects?
There's always something going on on our rush milkweed plants.
We've been watching a chrysalis that's attached to one of the stems. Can you guess what kind of butterfly it belongs to?
This morning it had darkened up and the shape had changed.
Sure enough, a wrinkly butterfly emerged.
Can you recognize it now?
On a nearby plant, this female queen butterfly laid eggs for the next generation.
We'll have more to watch next week.