Monday, August 16, 2010

Fear No Weevil

One of my fondest memories of childhood involved the summertime collection of monarch butterfly caterpillars and observing them as they grew, turned into chrysalises, and then later hatched. It was a mesmerizing experience watching each stately monarch break free of its pupae prison and slowly stretch out to become one of the world's most beautiful and colorful insects.

In the world of creepy crawlers a monarch butterfly could easily counterbalance the existence any ugly spider or odoriferous stink bug.

During the past several weeks I've been revisiting this childhood joy. I've been watching a half dozen milkweeds near my yard in hopes of spotting an early monarch caterpillar. I was thrilled when about ten days ago I noticed several of the gluttonous caterpillars.

Nearly every day since then I've walked to the milkweed patch to witness the caterpillars' progress. I found several more smaller ones during my subsequent visits that were almost impossible to detect--meanwhile, the original ones grew longer and fatter.

That was until yesterday. Before church I sauntered over to the driveway to visit my new friends. Every single one of the caterpillars had either disappeared altogether or was laying there dead.

Attached to two of the caterpillar corpses were several weevils who had punctured the caterpillar hides with their long ooze-sucking snouts. The caterpillars were deader than doornails and turning black.

I had always thought that monarch caterpillars were more or less protected from predators. By eating almost exclusively milkweed they bloated themselves on the white sap of the weed which is bitter, sticky and poisonous. This might come as a shock to Rougblog readers, but I had thought wrong.

There were at least two different types of weevils burrowed into the bodies of the caterpillars. Being a Christian, and this being a Sunday, I crushed the little bastards with a rock.

The next time I find healthy caterpillars near my house I'm going to collect them and put them in glass jars like I did when I was young. When they safely hatch they can fly free to lay eggs on milkweeds hopefully not infested with weevils.

I did some quick research on monarch predators and found that they are often the prey of wasps and birds. I did not find any accounts of weevils being the culprits.

I wonder if anyone else has any experience with these evil weevils.

1 comment:

  1. Interestingly, I just found the same thing today with a very small monarch caterpillar. It was suspended by the weevils mouthparts on the milkweed stem and seemed completely paralyzed. I will be posting photos of this on my own blog at soon, hopefully with an id of the weevil.