Tiniest down-home critters most fun at zoo

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We enjoy seeing through others' eyes, and appreciate each unique perspective. Recently, kids and a camera gave us a fresh view of our Detroit Zoo garden, including tiny wonders like this days-old monarch butterfly caterpillar making a meal of a milkweed leaf.  

Alex and Erin Grady come to help their mother, who gardens with us in the Detroit Zoo Adopt-A-Garden program. During our last session Janet gave the twins a camera and asked them to record "whatever looks good today." Their photos provided us a great way to see what children may notice as they visit the zoo, and coincidentally, the gardens.

More Kids' Views!


Notice the focus in their photo record? It shows in this collage of their snapshots. It wasn't the paths, the grand entries, the combinations... their photo collage consisted almost entirely of flowers. The kids took note of everything in bloom, from the low and tiny to the largest and most exalted.


We know they saw and gave many other things a pass, for they didn't miss the caterpillars. Their sharp eyes saved this batch of monarchs -- we quickly reversed our decision to pull all the "excess" milkweed!

We'll keep that focus in mind: For the kids, plant more flowers, and succor more caterpillars!

This year our Detroit Zoo beds have a three-for-three caterpillar hosting success. Our milkweed has monarchs, the black swallowtails have claimed the fennel, and the pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) is supporting quite the crowd of American painted lady butterfly larvae. Cool!



Below: American painted lady larvae can make a host plant look bad, as they knit leaf tips together and their excrement accumulates in those shelters. Yet they finish feeding long before the plants need to bud up to bloom. So the plant's new growth covers over any mess.


See the caterpillar? It does take an expert eye!