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Battle of the Caterpillars

Late instar monarch butterfly caterpillar

 

A powerful scene unfolded before me yesterday morning while I was photographing late instar monarch butterfly caterpillars devouring a host milkweed plant.

Feasting

They and about another six of their brethren had feasted on the plant until there were no flowers or leaves remaining. They transformed the luscious plant to a stick sculpture. It took only a few days to get to this point and I watched their bodies bloat from all the good eats.

Sharing grows tiresome

As the morning progressed, these two started to duke it out over the last nibble left on the stake. The top caterpillar was having none of his former buddy’s intrusion. He kept smacking the lower caterpillar with the top of his body.

With each blow, the top caterpillar became more determined to roust the other from its perch so it could finish breakfast without being rushed, I suppose. Each savage blow landed on the top of the other caterpillar’s upper region. He gave the poor guy a pretty good pummeling. But, the lower caterpillar persevered.

Enough is Enough

Eventually, the lower caterpillar made its way to the top and the two of them ate  the last bit together, seemingly getting over their rift.

Late instar monarch butterfly caterpillar