Monarch and Pipevine caterpillars

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I’m happy to say my latest caterpillars are growing rapidly and are well on their way to becoming chrysalises. They are eleven and twelve days old and about an inch long. I think they are a neat study in contrast.

The Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) is quite colorful with its yellow, black, and white stripes.

The Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar (Battus philenor) is velvety black with distinctive orange spots. It looks prickly with black spikes that might scare a predator, but these spikes are quite soft to the touch.


I’m surprised at how much I enjoy tending the caterpillars and watching them grow.  As long as I keep them supplied with fresh food and shake the droppings from their cage, they appear to be healthy and happy.

Caterpillars are often referred to as ‘voracious eating machines’ and as they get larger that’s especially true. I’m glad I have plenty of milkweed and pipevine. These are the only plants these caterpillars can eat and without them they would starve. Without milkweeds there would be no Monarchs, and without pipevines there would be no Pipevine Swallowtails.

I expect that within a week these caterpillars will make chrysalises – their next stage in becoming butterflies. I find it an amazing and fun journey to watch.

8 thoughts on “Monarch and Pipevine caterpillars”

  1. I’ve found caterpillars on my spicebush. Happy! I’ll collect some and start decorating my kitchen with shoe box caterpillar homes. Still looking for any sign of a monarch visit. My pipevine and my pawpaw are still so small, but we’ll see what happens. I might get some zebra swallowtail and pipevine caterpillars and would then have to get additional food for them elsewhere. Gorgeous photos, Bett.

    1. Congrats, Ann. More than one? None here so you are ahead of me. Here’s wishing you zebras, and pipevines, and monarchs, and maybe a tiger? What fun!

  2. very exciting hearing about all the different butterflies arriving! just eastern black swallowtail and red admiral (on false nettle) cats so far in Virginia Beach ; )

    1. Christine, no black swallowtails or red admirals here, but glad to know you have them. Some warm, sunny days could make a difference for all of us.

  3. Hi Betty. The pipevine caterpillar you gave me for the school lesson is growing fast and eating me out of house and leaves. It would be great if it decided to make a chrysalis before the kids go home so they can see it.
    Alas, the monarch is still not eating. It is still alive so I have not given up yet! Thanks again for all you do for butterflies. Congratulation Ann on your Spicebush babies – I don’t even have eggs yet.

    1. Linda, really glad to have the caterpillars that you could use with the young ones. Hope the monarch makes it, but if not, don’t take it personally – so much that we can’t know or understand.

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