My boyfriend found a Monarch caterpillar in the middle of the sidewalk 11 days ago. We live in Brooklyn and he was concerned for it, so he brought it home. We spent the next afternoon tracking down Milkweed and Thomas (the caterpillar) ate up a storm for the first 6-7 days!
On Thursday, I gave Thomas a Milkweed clipping that still had one of the spiky pods attached to it. When I checked on him, he had eaten off several spikes and seemed to be enjoying himself. The next day, I came back to find he had stopped eating. I washed the rest of the milkweed and offered it to him, thinking maybe he didn't like the ones from Thursday. He latched on to the edges of a few different leaves and made munching motions for a while, but never actually bit through any of them.
On Saturday we bought two tropical milkweeds, thinking maybe the other species' leaves were too hard for him. Once again, he latched on and made the motions of eating, but was unable to penetrate the leaf. He hasn't eaten since Thursday and is beginning to lose weight.
He clearly wants to eat, but can't. When he latches on to the edge of a leaf, he'll munch down the side ferociously and make sawing motions with his head, but can't seem to bite through. I've boiled a few leaves and used the nutrient-rich green water left behind to feed him. He goes crazy for the it. I've also ground up some leaves into a chunky paste and while he seems interested, doesn't eat it.
We have grown quite attached to him and the only other person I've found describing this behavior online is wildmustng87 on this forum a year ago. http://monarchwatch.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1914
I've PM'd them, but haven't heard back yet.
Is it possible he damaged his mandibles? What can we do?
Please help us help Thomas!
Yes we are sure we have milkweed.
He is still quite active.
There are no signs of bacteria.
to eat and is trying to eat.
Even caterpillars with parasites continue to eat!