A Monarch Larva near the Milkweeds: A Sample Adventure

Here’s a sample of the sort of adventure that school gardens so generously provide.  These notes are from Sept. 20, 2017, when one of the Art and Environmental Science classes at IJS filed out of the classroom and scampered down the stairs of the school building  to check on their Native American garden:

Perhaps the best discovery of the morning was this wonderful caterpillar (please zoom in).  His appearance was a cause for celebration because this was the first time that we were actually able to document the presence of a monarch butterfly larva in our gardens!   We had seen a few adults, but now we knew that the adults were laying eggs – as well as fluttering around the various nectar-producing flowers.

This distinctly striped fellow was spotted as he moved along the underside of a corn leaf.  The corn plant is growing on a mound that is nearly surrounded by a stand of common milkweed.  The children were intrigued by the caterpillars handsome colors which provided a certain amount of  camouflage and yet were distinctively patterned when viewed closely. They were able to see how the caterpillar had positioned himself in such a way on the corn that he blended in well with the mid vein of the leaf.  They were able to see him move – which was very memorable for us all.

In this section of the garden, we foster certain native pollinator plants right next to the mounds of corn, beans, and squash.  We’ve found that with some sustained human mediation (i.e. uprooting milkweeds who trespass into the mounds), we can keep all these interesting creatures growing rather well together next to the alley along the southern side of our school.  While the larvae was on the corn on this particular morning, we found others later actually eating the nearby milkweed  – as evidenced by feeding marks on the leaves.

The youngsters are lifting the leaf to reveal the larva.