Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars By The Handful

Monarch butterfly eggs occur in onesie-twosies on each milkweed plant, but Tussock Moths carpet-bomb the leaves with eggs that hatch pretty much all at once:

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars - detail

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars – detail

With a population density like that, the plant doesn’t stand a chance:

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars

A few hours later, they were gone and so were the leaves! Presumably, they’re traveling across the ground to the adjacent milkweed plants; one or two may find our patio.

Despite all the egg-laying we saw, we haven’t seen any Monarch caterpillars out there.

  1. #1 by Keith Ward on 2017-08-19 - 07:21

    The last few years I have decidedly not mowed several patches of milkweed. One patch has expanded to 15 in diameter and stands nearly 6 feet tall. Our hopes are always for [more] monarch caterpillars but usually get lots of tussocks instead. The monarchs we find are very often predated by wheel bugs as they will eat nearly anything, toxic or not. The patch attracts quite a bit of insect wildlife so we have fun watching it all unfold and often relocate the wheel bugs when possible.

    • #2 by Ed on 2017-08-19 - 08:13

      Our patch grew up amid the scruffy ground ivy around a holly bush behind the garage, where I have a perfect excuse not to mow it, and definitely supports a wide variety of critters. This was the first monarch we’d seen for years, so we’ll let the milkweeds grow!

      • #3 by Keith Ward on 2017-08-19 - 11:59

        We tend to keep things more natural vs insanely manicured 1. for wildlife, and 2. we live out in the country. My wife points out that some folks use “turf tar and trees landscaping” and nothing else, since she has a background in city and regional planning. There’s always that one neighbor who puts more hours on his mower in one week than most others in a month. Correction to my above dimensions earlier: 15 FEET in diameter. Not everyone appreciates native plants, for some I think it is since they may appear like weeds when not blooming. Similar reasons for wildlife and might even be scary for some since it is not understood as necessary or beneficial.

        • #4 by Ed on 2017-08-20 - 09:17

          A wise man once said something like “A weed is just a flower in the wrong place.” We appreciate all the flowers out there!