I feel really silly. So silly, in fact, that I didn’t quite know how to tackle the Monarch update to report the loss of our star performer, and opted instead for radio silence while I collected my thoughts. That exhilarating deflating and green-oozing caterpillar action that I reported on so jubilantly last week was likely not a part of the normal metamorphosis process, but rather a decline of health ending in death. Yeah – our large, “I-think-it-may-turn-into-a-chrysalis-any-moment!” caterpillar up and died on Thursday afternoon. Or sooner – I was holding vigil, letting the emaciated creature hang in peace, waiting to be surprised by a sudden (miraculous) transformation into chrysalis, but Isadora had to take matters into her own hands, move a very tall chair to where it was hanging (limp), and pull it off, marching it to me with the declaration that it was dead. Yeah, I thought so, but I wanted to give it a chance, in case I was wrong. And you’re not allowed to touch it, I reminded her.
But the little guy is growing at light-speed. That little sucker eats like a horse! I know it’s hard to get a sense of scale, especially since I couldn’t be bothered to include some kind of size reference in the photos, but the above photo shows the little caterpillar two days after last week’s post. Two days, and it had at least tripled in size.
Three days later, today, the caterpillar is about the size of the ill-fated one we picked off the road a week ago. I’ve changed out the milkweed for fresh, thrown out the enormous pile of caterpillar waste, and transferred the whole setup from the pickle jar to a mesh bug house. As soon as the chrysalis forms (in about 10 minutes, I’d guess, at this pace of growth!) I will take it out altogether so we can stare at it for hours watching the magic unfold. Meanwhile, I curse the thick mesh of the cheap-o house whenever I try to locate the caterpillar to keep tabs on its progress – it’s really hard to see through.
We’re also scouring the neighborhood milkweeds for Contingency Plan C, in case we have some kind of inhospitable Monarch-raising environment. I’m trying really hard not to let you all down.