There’s a late summer feeding frenzy in the garden at the moment, as this year’s crop of monarch caterpillars do their competitive best to turn into butterflies. This is indeed a very hungry caterpillar, and if not quite as adorable a gourmand as the Eric Carle version certainly as ravening.
Also, if you’ve ever wondered how a caterpillar manages to cling on while dangling upside down on a windy day . . . here’s a closeup of the hairy hooks on the bottom of their prolegs (the ones at the back), which I did not know until I just now looked it up are called “crochets”.
Spike here was about 15mm long, and sitting in the middle of a plank on the deck. I couldn’t get the camera low enough for a great angle, and hey, I wasn’t going to touch it. A cautious attempt to encourage it on to a leaf with another leaf just resulted in a small bidibid shaped ball of caterpillar rolling around on the deck. So, sorry, this is not the best photo composition ever, but it is a view of one of the most interestingly strange minibeasts currently in my garden, the yellow admiral caterpillar, with this one likely a little lost on a trek to find more nettles. Photo with the 4:1 20mm lens.
This morning I was trying to capture an image of the mouthparts on this tiny 3-4mm monarch caterpillar, using my ridiculous new 4.5:1 lens, to see if I could. I’ve almost nearly figured out the flash settings needed, and this time almost almost had the minuscule in-focus zone right when some sort of bug started messing things up by moving around just in front of the lens. Pulling back a bit, it turned out we were being photobombed by a much faster and tinier lava of some different species. It seemed to just want to rear up in front of the front of the lens and wave about, firmly refusing to hold a pose long enough for a decent identifying photo.
Amusing, so long as the intruder doesn’t turn out to be the harbinger of some kind of swan plant mothy doom. I hope at least some of the new crop of monarchs make it to the butterfly stage this summer. Since I have this new lens and all.
Hey, what is this blurry fast blob that keeps getting in the way? Ah, that fellow.
20mm, F11, 1/100, iso 400
Today I experimented some more using off-camera flash. My subject was a monarch caterpillar, and the photograph was taken on a Sony A7ii, using a Nikon 105mm macro lens on a bellows, with a Yongnuo trigger and one flash set to low power, about 20cm away. The bellows let me focus very close indeed, while the flash meant I could use f/22. I’ve definitely never got as close and sharp an image of this type of beastie’s mouth parts and ocelli before. But I have also rediscovered that a high f/stop makes every teeny bit of dust on the lens waaay more visible!
Look, an early monarch caterpillar, one of two hatchlings now munching through the remains of last year’s tattered swan plant. New plants have been now planted elsewhere in the garden; the trick will be to get balance twixt infestation and vegetation a bit more even this year. Roll on summer of the butterfly!
I’m enjoying the hungry little caterpillar scenario being played out on the swan plants (milkweed) in a pot at the end of my deck. The fattest wee beastie set off for a nearby fence today, to start the next phase of its existence.
They eat weed plants as caterpillars, and as adults, monarch butterflies (formally, Danaus plexippus) have no particular impact on anything human, except as objects of interest and beauty. Ideal royalty.
Swan Plant (milkweed) is bringing hungry bees to my garden at the moment, suggesting someone near by has an urban hive. The reason for the Swan plants, monarch caterpillars, are growing nicely, seeming to more or less double in size every few days. I anticipate much childlike happy wonder when they eventually cocoon and turn into butterflies.
During extensive research into the life cycle of these lovely creatures (ie, some careless reading on Wikipedia) I learnt that the original working title for The Very Hungry Caterpillar was “A Week with Willi Worm“. A rose by any other name . . . would probably not have succeeded quite so well.