07.26.2013 My yard adventures #1

As the title implies, this is the first in a series of I don’t know how many with a few images from our yard.

Milkweed is considered a pest by many.  But we encourage a few “Pet Milkweeds” to live among our flowers as they provide the BEST scent among all…even nicer than our peonies.  If you’ve never smelt a milkweed flower start sniffing at your local patch.

But the caterpillars are what this post is about.  We all are familiar with the Monarch Butterfly’s colorful caterpillar found exclusively on milkweed.Monarch-Cat-Face-080209-1This year we have been enjoying another colorful and decidedly hairier little cat…the Milkweed Tussock Moth larva.Milkweed-Tussock-Moth-Caterpillar-072413-800WebThese sweet little bottle brushes can make a milkweed leaf disappear in several blinks of the eye.  Voracious little herbivore piranhas, the leaf goes in one end and a pile of little frass nuggets appear from the other on the leaf below.   And they work well as a team too.Milkweed-Tussock-Moth-Caterpillar-2-072413-800WebActually some leaves are covered with them…maybe a dozen or two crawling over the upper and lower surfaces making the leaf disappear quicker than a Nathan’s hotdog at an eating contest.

I wonder if these two will find each other on the other side to create the next irruption. 🙂Milkweed-Tussock-moth-caterpillar-pair-072513-800WebI think that’s enough for now.  Now don’t go eating a bug.

About Steve Gingold

I am a Nature Photographer with interests in all things related. Water, flowers, insects and fungi are my main interests but I am happy to photograph wildlife and landscapes and all other of Nature's subjects.
This entry was posted in Animal Behavior, Butterflies, Insect Behavior, Insects, Lepidoptera, Moths, Nature Photography and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to 07.26.2013 My yard adventures #1

  1. Office Diva says:

    Green Heron Steve: My favorite photo is the first one, simply because it’s such a great closeup of Her (or His?) Majesty, the monarch caterpillar. “Her Majesty’s Royal Milkweed Bath”.
    I’ve never seen the other fuzzy fellas; they look like they would make a great business end of a toothbrush, if only they were not so squishy.
    I wonder what the mortality rate is for Tussocks plummeting to their death as one of their comrades destroys a vital part of their many-footed foothold?
    As usual, I learned a lot, enjoyed the scenery and now find myself longing to smell a milkweed. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!


    • Many thanks, O’Diva. The Monarch larva is a lovely plumper and to our dismay has not been seen this year…yes, that is an oldie. I will be looking in some large patches for them this weekend but they seem to not be present in good numbers this year.
      From observing them falling from the leaves I think the landing is quite soft. Upon hitting the ground they scurry under cover quickly and I didn’t notice any limps so I think they survive fairly well. 🙂
      And a good weekend to you too….perchance with a milkweed sachet. 🙂


  2. Everett Davis says:

    Interesting commentary, Steve.


  3. Oh me. WP is wearing me out. My entire comment was wiped out. Then my computer said so sorry there has been an error.

    The photos are excellent. The cats and the moth cats are gorgeous. Try to leave more milkweed ir posssible. Stats are saying habitat loss in US is a big factor. Not enough host plants.

    Loved this post Steve. Photos are really enjoyable.


    • It appears to have been momentary, Yvonne. I was unable to read the comments or even see my post for a while. But all seems normal now.
      No worries about our leaving the milkweed to grow…It’s the hungry hippos…err cats that we need to worry about. One stalk is bare of leaves, petioles you name it…just stalk is left. We are pretty fortunate here that there are many places with large patches. I try to tell everyone I know to smell and appreciate the flowers in hopes that we will always have large swaths of them for the butterflies and our noses.
      Thanks for the compliment for the images, Yvonne. 🙂


  4. Greg Russell says:

    What a great way to look at the “pests” (floral and faunal) in your backyard! I’ve always been really fond of monarch caterpillars, and particularly enjoyed that image, Steve. Nicely done! I’m glad one of us has patience for macro work. 😉


    • Thanks, Greg. The patience comes a lot easier when I just have to walk out my back door. Unfortunately, this seems a bad year for Monarchs and I hope it is not a sign of things to come.


  5. Andrew says:

    Back Yard Birding I’ve heard of. Now we have backyard cats. If I found a monarch I would be ecstatic and probably call it George.


  6. Lottie Nevin says:

    These little critters are quite something! I’ve never seen anything like them before, they are enchanting. And what snazzy outfits too, that yellow and black stripe is very fetching. Looking forward to your next Back Yard feature soon! 🙂


  7. Phil Lanoue says:

    Yikes! Cool shots though. 🙂


  8. Just Rod says:

    Lovely shots Steve. We normally see lots of Monarchs here but they have been far and few between this year. They have such an amazing migration routine.


    • Thanks, Rod. I have not seen one single Monarch this year and I’ve heard the same from a lot of friends. I know their wintering grounds are under development siege but worry that there is something else afoot that is decimating their population.


  9. Milkweed a pest? Heaven forfend!
    Like others here, I’ve never seen a milkweed tussock moth larva, but it gives you plenty of texture to play with.


  10. Sandra says:

    I really like these caterpillars, they are beautiful (despite their colour pattern 😉 =D ). Truly very good photos!


  11. penpusherpen says:

    Love the little bottle brushes Steve, and more so because I just watched a programme on TV about Butterflies. and the way their need for just the right plant for their eggs/babes to flourish is fast disappearing in a lot of areas across the Planet. The miracle of egg/caterpillar/larvae then beautiful flighted ‘flutter- by’ (as I call them 🙂 ) was wonderful to watch on the screen. What a terrible thing it would be to lose their awe inspiring presence. xPenx


    • Thanks, Lady Pen. It would be terrible to lose the flutter-bys. Doubly, it is a bad sign for us all should that happen. Nature has cycles and, hopefully, this is just a slow cycle…but I have my doubts about that. It is a wonderful sight to see a cocoon sprout a lovely butterfly or moth. I’ve never witnessed it in person so thank goodness for video and the people who make them. 🙂


  12. These are hilarious little critters! They look like someone has taken some multicoloured pipe cleaners and done a balloon animal sort of thing with them! 😀


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