They’re endearing, ubiquitous, easy to identify and we have a special relationship with them. But there’s a at least three other caterpillars that eat milkweed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Last week I noticed this fellow noshing on a pot of Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata.
My first thought: “That ain’t no Monarch.”
Correct. It’s the Striped garden caterpillar, Trichordestra legitimata, which feasts not only on milkweed but other common garden greens–clover, goldenrod, yarrow, grasses and others. The Striped garden caterpillar turns into the rather nondescript Striped garden caterpillar moth, a grey, smallish creature with little black diamonds on his back. Check out these photos on Bugguide.net.
Here’s a better picture of the caterpillar, via Molly Jacobson.