More Monarch Butterflies

It’s baby time again in the butterfly nursery at our house! In a June blog post  I told you about the thrilling visit by a female monarch to our garden, and showed you photos of her laying an egg on our milkweed.

Monarch butterfly depositing an egg on milkweed

Monarch butterfly depositing an egg on milkweed

The first monarch emerged this weekend!
DSC_5771 small This is a closeup of him hanging onto the chrysalis that he emerged from. DSC_5769 smallWe let him rest overnight because the weather was cold and windy. Sunday brought a bit of sun, so we let him go.

Monarch butterfly

His empty chrysalis is on the left. His sister is ready to emerge – we could tell because her chrysalis became transparent and we could see the pattern of her wings through it.
DSC_5735 smallShe emerged the next day. Here’s a photo of her from the front.DSC_5764 smallWe raised and released three monarchs – two male and one female. Hopefully she’ll return to our garden to to lay more eggs, or if you’ve planted milkweed maybe she’ll find her way to your garden!

I made a poster and card of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.

Advertisements

A Monarch Butterfly Visits the Garden

Why do you get up in the morning? For me, it doesn’t get any better than this: I was outside in the garden yesterday to check on a squawking hen. Looking up as a shadow crossed over my head, I spotted a monarch butterfly. A very welcome sight, because this hasn’t been a good year for monarchs; she was the first one I’ve seen in our garden all year.

Monarch butterfly in the garden

She flitted around several of the milkweed plants that George has planted to attract the monarchs. Milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars eat.

Monarch butterfly in the garden

Finally, she found one to her liking and deposited an egg under a leaf.

Monarch butterfly laying an egg

If I hadn’t taken this photograph of her leaving the egg, I don’t think we would have found it, it was so well hidden.

Monarch butterfly egg on milkweed

We carefully inspected the other milkweed plants and found several more eggs. I wonder how many we missed!

Monarch butterfly egg on milkweed

The one high up in this milkweed plant (it’s the yellow dot near the center of the photo) must have been left a few days ago, because it already hatched, as did a second one George found on the same plant. This photo with the head of a pin included shows the size of the egg and the two tiny caterpillars.

Monarch butterfly caterpillars

Have you seen any monarchs in your garden? Are you planting milkweed to attract the females and feed the caterpillars?

First monarch caterpillar emerges

Did you see my post about the monarch butterfly in our garden? 

And my follow-up post about the eggs that she left on our milkweed?

Here’s one of my photos of mama monarch:

And here’s one of my closeups of one of the eggs we found – for scale, remember that they’re about the size of the head of a pin!
I keep telling you about the size of the eggs, so here’s a photo I took of an egg alongside a normal-sized straight pin:
We decided to raise them inside, because it greatly increases their survival rate. We found 13 eggs, and carefully brought them inside on Thursday. By Saturday some of the eggs had lost their yellowish color, now appearing grayish-white with darker shading inside (the caterpillar’s skin has formed and is showing through the egg, which is actually translucent).
Here’s a tighter closeup:
And voila! By Saturday evening the first tiny caterpillar had eaten its way out of its egg. The newly-hatched larva is a little more than a millimeter long, and has a gray body with a shiny black head. Here he (or she) is:
You can see its egg to the right. The tiny caterpillar is exploring and eating the milkweed.
I just checked, and more of the caterpillars are emerging, so check back for more photos!
In fact, here’s a new photo of our second baby. This caterpillar emerged from the only egg of the batch that we found on another type of milkweed, the Asclepias physocarpa.
He’s headed back to eat more of his eggshell.
And finally, another photo with a pin for scale, showing the size of the newly emerged caterpillar:

Monarch eggs in the garden!

Well, guess what? George was right that she was a female – she left us some precious gifts. Yesterday I noticed many tiny yellow eggs sprinkled on our milkweed plants. Here’s an extreme closeup of one, it’s about the size of the head of a pin!
Isn’t it amazing how she tucked it up under the cap of the bud of the unopened milkweed flower? Most of the eggs that we spotted are on the Asclepias cancellata “Wild Cotton,” which we got at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.  You can read about this beautiful milkweed plant on Annie’s website. Here’s another extreme closeup:
You can see the oval shape and tiny lines (which my poor eyes can’t even see without blowing up my photos).  This side view really shows the oval shape:
 I think this one is getting ready to emerge from the egg – the black speck appears to be the tiny larvae (caterpillar) breaking through:
Click here to see an incredible time lapse video on Youtube of a monarch caterpillar breaking out of its egg.  Pulling back a little, you can see this one tucked among the unopened flower buds:
Finally, I really hate to post an out-of-focus photograph, but I took this one last night when we first found them, and the light was fading and I had no time to set up my tripod (excuses, excuses), so sorry for the fuzziness, but it shows you the size of the egg in scale with George’s finger.
I mentioned in my prior blog post that we have hardly seen any monarchs in our garden for a couple of years. I checked, and it was Spring 2009 when we last had the good luck to find monarch eggs on our milkweed. We raised and released them, and I photographed the entire process. You can see those photos by clicking here.  The mortality rate of butterflies left outside is quite high, due to predators, weather factors and other causes, so raising them indoors greatly increases the chance that they will survive. We’re honored that this monarch trusted us with her eggs, and we will guard and nurture them until they emerge, then let them go to continue the cycle!

Monarch in the garden

A good day –a monarch butterfly is flitting around our garden! Here she is perched on the leaves of the peach tree.
Monarch butterfly perched on a peach tree
It has been a couple of years since George watched a monarch lay eggs on the milkweed in our backyard. We brought some of the eggs inside to raise in safety.  Click here to see the photos I took of the whole process, from the tiny eggs, to the caterpillars, to the chrysalises, and finally to the butterflies which emerged (and which we released.)
But despite all of the milkweed George has planted to attract them, we’ve hardly seen any monarchs in the garden since that special year.  So imagine my delight when I saw this one — she (George got close enough to identify her as female) was sunning on the angel’s trumpet, and she also seemed to like the fennel plant and the dogwood tree, as well as the milkweed.   Here she is on the dried seed pods of the fennel, which is one of the anise swallowtail butterfly’s larval food sources.
She spent quite a bit of time on the milkweed, and I’m hoping she left some eggs.
I love this milkweed, it’s Asclepias physocarpa. Bees like it too – can you see the honeybee a bit to the left of the butterfly? Physocarpa is also known as “Family Jewels” because the seed pods look like … well, here’s a photo I took yesterday of one of the dried seed pods, see for yourself.
Here’s a closeup of the butterfly on the milkweed, you can see her poor tattered wing.
Did you know that one of the monarch butterfly’s protective characteristics is to poison its predators? In the larval stage it eats milkweed leaves to incorporate the milkweed toxins into its body. Perhaps a bird realized after getting a bite that it didn’t want to keep eating.