Monarch butterfly mating dance

This past year I selected my best photos of monarch butterflies from egg to emerged adult, to create a poster illustrating the monarch’s life cycle.

Monarch Butterfly life cycle posterI was most thrilled to get photos of the wonder of a monarch creating, and then shedding, its chrysalis. Here it’s pupating:

Monarch caterpillar pupating

After about two weeks it emerged (also called eclosing):

Monarch butterfly eclosing

In all my time photographing monarchs I never imagined I’d be able to capture one depositing an egg on milkweed; their visits to the garden are sadly rare, and the female leaves her eggs quickly and flits away. But disciplining myself to bring my camera whenever I went into the garden finally paid off. One day this summer I saw a female ovipositing, and quickly grabbed some photos before she flew off.

Moanrch butterfly laying egg

The cycle was finally complete, I thought, but of course I forgot one crucial part: mating! Yesterday George and I took a road trip to a local overwintering spot for monarchs, and were joyously watching several large clusters in the eucalyptus trees. Many lone butterflies were also flying around.

Monarch butterfly cluster

Noticing one fluttering its wings in the grass, I went to see whether it was stuck and needed help. I called George over, and with his keen naturalist eyes he spotted what I had missed; there were two.

Monarchs mating

And they were mating!

Monarchs mating

Here the male fluttered his wings over the female.

Monarch butterflies mating

And now they’re attached.

Monarch butterflies mating

Since it was almost evening, they probably stayed on the ground overnight because monarchs can’t fly if their body temperature goes below about 55 F (13 C).

And now the cycle truly is complete! Has Mother Nature thrilled you lately? If so, let us know!

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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.