This has been a disappointing year for Monarch butterflies in our neighborhood. I haven’t seen many butterflies and only two caterpillars…and it’s relatively late in the season. I first saw a medium sized caterpillar on the milkweed in my front flower bed (the milkweed came back after I pulled it earlier in the season). I took pictures of it two days in a row…eating away. On the third day I couldn’t find it. I hope it will reappear at some point although I am wondering if something is killing or eating Monarch caterpillars.
I found a bigger caterpillar on a milkweed plant behind the bushes (maybe the location of the plant is protective). The caterpillar was actively eating and is big enough that it will make a chrysalis soon.
The milkweed plants look OK but not as good as I remember them from the 1990s. The leaves sometimes curl and deform and there are a lot more aphids. It looks like there may be some parasitoids of the aphids which are beginning to control the population.
It’s frustrating to have host plants but so few caterpillars. Are there just too many factors leading to the Monarch decline? It’s worse than last year.