Tag Archives: Monarch Life Cycle

Monarchs in My Garden: Part 2

The female monarch has thick black veins on the forewings and hindwings

My previous post mentioned one female monarch came back from the south earlier than I expected. She laid many eggs on my milkweed. There were three adult monarchs that emerged from the chrysalises before our Memorial Day weekend trip to see our grandkids in Oregon.

The male monarch has two thick dots on the hindwings

Before going on the trip, I asked my neighbor to babysit the caterpillars, but she didn’t feel comfortable doing it. I bought two additional butterfly cages with a total of four, and put the milkweed with the most eggs in the cages, then left them alone. One cage had five chrysalises. I left the cage door open in case the adult monarchs emerge while we were gone.

A mess is put at the top of the milkweed pot level so that the toddler caterpillars won’t fall to the bottom of the cage.

When we came back from the trip, two of the chrysalises had only empty shells. I was glad the cage door was open, so the butterflies flew away. There were still three monarchs that emerged after we returned home.

They crawled around the cage until they straightened the wrinkled wings to be strong enough to fly

The other three cages had tons of caterpillars. Some grew bigger in our absence. Some eggs were hatched.

I only had enough milkweed to feed the caterpillars I had so far. My visit to the nursery was disappointing because the plant was dry and almost dead but cost the same. Currently, there are about 20 chrysalises in four cages. When all the adult butterflies emerge, I’ll pack up the cages.

These are 7 of the 20 chrysalises

My home-grown milkweed is doing well. Hopefully, I won’t need to purchase commercial ones next year.

I took a photo of them before they flew away

My monarch raising season is almost over this year. I made a few recordings of the different stages. I want to show you two of them. If you don’t want to spend 14 minutes watching them, you could fast forward.

Incredible creature
Amazing transformation

We all have our beautiful butterflies within us, you and me!

Have a Wonderful Weekend!

My First Generartion of Monarch Butterflies

I bought two butterfly cages, used the first one for the first seven caterpillars and the second one for the next collection of ten caterpillars. I put potted milkweed in the cages to feed them. The caterpillar takes 9 to 14 days from the egg to pupate.

When the first caterpillar in Cage #1 circled around the edge of the pot, I thought it tried to escape. I put it back on the plant several times. I realized it was looking for a spot to pupate. I cut a piece of thin bamboo to connect from the soil to the top. It took no time for the little guy to find the bamboo to crawl up. It stayed in one spot but kept moving around for a day. Finally, it settled at a spot close to the wire that shapes the cage.

Is the mesh too soft, and it didn’t feel safe? I found a piece of heavier mesh to make a cage top. The rest of the caterpillars seems to like it and settled quicker to pupate.

Just before it pupates, the caterpillar spins a silk mat from which it hangs upside down by its last pair of prolegs. As it sheds its skin for the last time, the caterpillar stabs a stem into the silk mat to hang.

The second cage had about ten caterpillars. I didn’t have enough milkweed to feed them. It takes about two 4-inch pots of milkweed to feed one caterpillar. All my young plants combined would feed two. This is my first year raising butterflies and didn’t want to leave the caterpillars to die. After checking on the options, I bought one 1-gallon and three 4-inch pots of milkweed available at a nearby nursery. I transplanted them into one pot to feed the little guys.

The first week of the caterpillars was like a one-year-old baby who just learned to walk and disappeared constantly. By the second week, they get fat with darker colors. During the last few days before pupating, they cling on to the plant, munching ferociously, which reminded me of the children’s book, The Hungry Caterpillar.

I went to visit my granddaughters on June 16. The second day after I arrived, the first butterfly emerged. My husband sent me a photo. It was exciting to see the first butterfly made its way through the journey. After arriving home on June 22, I witnessed the rest of the chrysalides turned into beautiful butterflies.

The first flights of the monarch. They landed on somewhere for a few seconds before taking off.

I now understand the reason only 2% of the caterpillars made it to become butterflies. They can perish at any stage during the four stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly.

Eggs and Caterpillar: Can disappear or die.

Chrysalis: Four chrysalides seemed to be too small for the wings to grow inside and died.

Adult Butterfly: One butterfly almost didn’t make it because after it emerged, the wings couldn’t extend all the way when they opened. It continued to practice and crawled up and up the cage for 24 hours instead of a few hours. It finally flew away.

I examined my photos, it seemed I raised more male than female butterflies. Male butterfly has black dots on the hind wings whereas the female has thicker black veins. The following photos: the first one is a female and the second one is a male.

As I was writing this article on my front porch, there were two butterflies fluttering up and down and around visiting the flowers in the front yard.

Are you my butterflies coming back to see me?

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Butterfly Garden Story

Post 1: The Monarch Caterpillars Are Here

Post 2: The Monarch Journey in My Garden

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