Monday, May 30, 2011

Butterfly Tales 2011

May 25, 2011

Yay, so excited that they have arrived! I came home from work for lunch yesterday and found a couple of eggs. I didn't have time to harvest any and it poured and thunderstormed all night long. First thing this morning I went outside to see how many I had. I found 8 this morning and that was it. After a couple of hours I went outside and saw my first monarch flying around, and then another in the yard to the north of me. I started looking and found 10 more eggs for a total of 18.

May 30, 2011

The Monarch caterpillar can only eat milkweed so that is the only place the female lays her eggs. The egg takes from 3-5 days to hatch. A dime in the picture for size comparison.

It took 5 days for my first egg to hatch. A little longer than usual because of the chilly temps we had. I find that the cooler it is the longer they take to hatch.

June 1, 2011

"When the caterpillar has become too large for its skin, it molts, or sheds its skin. At first, the new skin is very soft, and provides little support or protection. The new skin soon hardens and molds itself to the caterpillar, which often eats the shed skin before starting in anew on plant food! The intervals between molts are called instars. Monarchs go through five instars. Approximate length of body at each stage: 1st instar, 2-6mm; 2nd instar, 6-9mm; 3rd instar, 10-14mm; 4th instar, 13-25mm; 5th instar, 25-45mm." Source:

Normally they stay on their milkweed plant to shed their skin but this little guy climbed off and went down on the newspaper that I have lining the bottom of the aquarium. This is just a normal newspaper so you can compare his size to the size of the print. The black specks you see to your left are his shriveled up skin and caterpillar poop. After they shed they can't move for a while and are very vulnerable when they are outside. I'm sure this is when most of them get eaten. 90% of Monarchs die in the wild. Their main enemy is the wasp.I have named this little guy/girl, McQueen, after the actress, Butterfly McQueen. You cannot tell whether they are male or female until they form their chrysalis.


kafdancer said...

It's amazing. Last year, thanks to your blog, I harvested about 25 Monarchs. This year I have about 15 milkweed plants and gave away about 10 and I'm afraid to look for eggs because I don't think I have the patience to do it again. Am I bad?

barbara said...

Where can I get milk weed plants? I got some a few years ago in an abandoned field in Detroit but they don't seem to be flowering.

kafdancer said...

I live in Garden City and I have lots of milkweed. Let me know if you'd like any.

Chevy said...

Hi Barbara,

Not sure where you live but if you are in Southeast Michigan you are welcome to join my garden exchange group. Milkweed takes a few years to flower. Mine are not blooming yet and it will probably be another week until they do.

Kris said...

Question: I have a plant called butterfly weed, that I was told is native to MI and can feed the monarchs.
Was I misled?

Chevy said...

Kafdancer, not bad at all!! Not everyone has the patience for it, and it is a lot of work. They will find your milkweed and lay eggs and even if you get one live one on your plants that turns into a butterfly, you have done a good thing!

Kris, yes, butterfly weed is a form of milkweed and the monarchs will definitely lay their eggs on it. I have two plants here myself.

JenPB said...

WOW! Super amazing photos! Can't wait to share them with my girls...time to plant milkweed in the garden.

Cheryl's Gifts 2 Go said...

I love reading your blog about the Monarchs. They are my favorite too.You do such a terrific job with the pictures you post in your blog too. The Monarchs must have heard it is warm up north because they by-passed Florida this year, well at least in my area. I have lots of milkweed waiting for them. I guess I will have to wait till fall now. Enjoy your butterflies as I will enjoy reading your new posts.

Kim said...

Awesome pictures Karen!