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Friday, November 20, 2009

Semi-artificial monarch butterfly larval diet

Providing appropriate food for caterpillars reared in captivity has got to be a challenge since its hard enough to keep up with their appetite in the natural environment. The asclepias are in bad shape right now, with few green leaves and lots of dying discolored leaves covered with aphids, aphid honeydew and miscellaneous yuck. Still the hungry monarch larvae chomp away, eating even what seem to be poor quality leaves like this one. The pickings are getting thin and the growing shortage of quality food seems sure to have an impact on the growth and maturity of these autumn caterpillars.

Which leads us to ponder US Patent 6180147, Semi-artificial monarch butterfly larval diet. In which leaves and shoots of asclepias plants are dried and ground then mixed into a paste and fed (how this is done is left to our fertile imaginings) to caterpillars and thus sustaining them in a semi-artificial way without benefit of fresh green or even dry and discolored asclepias leaves.

Could it be that the changing quality of wild food prepares the caterpillars for maturity in special ways, maybe triggering the migratory instinct? Does feeding captive generations of monarchs suppress certain behaviors, turning them into domesticated insects? If I mix up the S-AMBLD with my toothpaste, what happens to the caterpillars? To me?

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