As a gardener, my natural tendency is to snip, trim and weed when I’m in the garden. I want everything to look pretty, and right now my milkweed looks anything but. There are barely any flowers on it; the leaves aren’t as green as normal; and the seed pods are splitting into messy mop tops.
That last part I’ve happily allowed up until this point because I’m a sucker for self-sowing plants. There’s nothing better than getting more flowers than you originally planted, and the milkweed plants are spitting and hurling seeds through the garden at this point. They are determined to take over, and I’m fine with it. Every plant around, real or fake, has a milkweed seed stuck to it.
I always hesitate when clipping back milkweed because you never know what’s hiding under the leaves. Good thing I kept the clippers holstered. There are two plants and six caterpillars. If they outlast the elements and the birds, the caterpillars will morph into Monarch butterflies.
Milkweed is the only plant Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on. It’s like magic. Plant it, and they will come – butterflies and bugs alike. Although I’ve only ever seen four types of insects on my milkweed, an Iowa study reported seeing 457 different types of insects on their milkweed. My four are butterflies, ants, milkweed bugs, and yellow milkweed aphids (pictured below).
I’d rather see milkweed bugs over milkweed aphids because the latter are detrimental to the plant. They suck nutrients out of the plant and are surely the reason for my recently lackluster leaves. Once the caterpillars move on to the chrysalis stage, I’m going to spray them off the milkweed with the garden hose set on jetstream - advice from My Monarch Guide. There may be a few drowned ants as well because where there are aphids, there usually are ants. It’s quite the interesting relationship; the ants milk the aphids.
Interesting or not, I’m one chrysalis closer to grabbing the garden hose and reclaiming my milkweed.
Five to go. To find the chrysalis, keep an eye on the caterpillar when it strays from the plant. This one scouted out a few trellises before anchoring underneath the windowsill.