Along the Paint Creek Trail, Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) foliage and flowers are hosting small native creatures – a Bumblebee (genus Bombus), a Harvester (order Opiliones) – and those glamorous larvae – Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars (Danaus plexippus). The Monarch butterflies lay their tiny eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. 3-8 days later, the larvae, or caterpillars, emerge and feed on the plant. The caterpillars go through 5 molts until the 5th instar attaches itself to a horizontal surface using a silk pad and forms a chrysalis. Two weeks later they emerge transformed as adults, beautiful butterflies.
That’s the beauty of native plants; they’re the natural host for the creatures with which they “grew up” or evolved – like the native bumblebee or the harvester, an outdoor arachnid that’s a distant relative to the spider. Native creatures in turn pollinate other native flowers or provide forage for native birds, amphibians and reptiles. Native plants form the foundation for preserving our native habitat – and beautiful creatures like the Monarch butterfly!