Mutant Monarch Caterpillar?
Location: West Los Angeles
November 14, 2011 12:06 pm
We’ve had dozens of Monarch caterpillars this year (best year in a long time). Their colors varied somewhat, but all had rings of colors the length of their bodies.
The caterpillar pictured was found on a milkweed plant, but wasn’t interested in eating. It also did not appear large enough to begin chrysalizing (is this a word?).
As you can see, it does not have rings, but spots, and an additional set of ”false” antennae near the middle of its body.
So is this a Monarch caterpillar or something else?
Signature: Jeff Bremer
This is noteworthy for Los Angeles. What exciting photographs to post, especially since they are from Los Angeles. There are several other Milkweed Butterflies in the Monarch genus Danaus, and this is another member of the royal family. We believe this is the Queen Caterpillar, a species reported from California according to BugGuide. Your individual is darker than the images posted to BugGuide. Queens are darker than Monarchs.
On a side note, we are formulating written responses to interview questions for a Russian magazine, F5. One of the questions we have been struggling with is 15. After having studied bugs for so long, have you learned anything important from them? And the answer is: “Yes I have. I have learned that we are all individuals. Just as no two people look alike, no two insects look exactly alike, but some are very similar. I learned this after seeing a photograph of a Queen Caterpillar that was much darker than photos of Queen Caterpillars I found on legitimate websites like BugGuide. I have learned that even if I have difficulty telling two insect species apart, insects have no trouble recognizing their own species. Species are just close to one another on the evolutionary scale, and they differentiated due to global distribution. When you cut off a gene pool, it differentiates from disparate groups and eventually it forms a race, that if they cease to intermingle, might evolve to a point where they can no longer reproduce together.”
Thanks for your reply – I’m hoping to see a Queen butterfly as well and was wondering of there is a way to tell the chrysalis from that of a Monarch. The pictures in BugGuide don’t show any distinguishing features. Do you know of any?
Alas, we don’t know how to distinguish the two chrysalides. We will copy Keith Wolfe to see if he has any insight.
Keith Wolfe Responds
Jeff, please see this rather crude comparison using Internet photos . . .
. . . which was quickly put together many years ago for a student I was mentoring.
Enjoy the wonder!
Had a stroke of luck yesterday when I spotted a Queen caterpillar starting to chrysalize. Now I just need to be there when she emerges.