Sunday, October 3, 2010

Monarch Butterflies and Caterpillars

My friend, Debbie, gave me two Tropical Milkweed plants a few weeks ago. They have been growing nicely. I have been feeding and watering my “weeds”. The Black Swallowtails, Zebra Longwings, Tiger Swallowtails and Yellow butterflies love them……you can bet I’ll have a big patch of weeds next year.

I wondered how a Monarch would find these plants way back here in the woods. I never see them other than at Debbie’s and she is a couple of miles down the road.  Last week I was thrilled……a Monarch flew into the yard…it fluttered around the plants but didn’t spend much time on the flowers.  It came back a few days later and I took a couple videos. When I downloaded them I realized she was laying eggs.

I took these snapshots out of the video so they are not the best photos.


After I saw this in the video I went out and checked the plant leaf…sure enough…an egg. I did some research and read where ants and other insects  eat butterfly eggs. I found another article on how to keep them…so I set up a container and clipped the leaf…and several others. Once I knew what I was looking for I found several eggs.

Monarch laying egg2cs

There are 3 below, they are the small white spots. Just before they hatch the egg looks black. I guess it’s the little black face chewing it’s way out.


The next day I found this small caterpillar. It  must have just hatched…. It is eating it’s shell….I read that is their first meal. It is about 1/32 of an inch long.  tiny..tiny…tiny..


So I have moved my caterpillar nursery to a plastic bin for easier handling. I have to put fresh leaves in each day. Today I cut the section the caterpillar was sitting on off the wilted leaf and dropped it onto a fresh leaf. Look closely…you can see at least 3 caterpillars….there are over a dozen in the pile and I have several eggs yet to hatch.  I keep the leaves with the eggs in separate containers …evidently caterpillars might eat the eggs too.


Here’s a close-up of the one on the L side of the leaves. You can see the start of its stripes.


Here’s the video where I spotted the Monarch laying her eggs.

With all these caterpillars you’d think I’d get lucky enough to see them make their Chrysalis and capture them emerging as butterflies.

Jim’s next project will be a small butterfly house for my screen room.  Then I can have several potted Milkweed plants under netting and can put my caterpillars on living plants where they can eat all they want….and have a safe place to build their Chrysalis.

This is so interesting. I loved caterpillars when I was a kid……now I remember why.


  1. This should be fascinating.
    Keep us posted.

  2. Interesting! I need to grow some milkweed. Where do you get a nursery?

  3. This is such a great thing to do for the possible future of Monarchs and a fun process of life to watch and share.

  4. How exciting, this is a great post. Looking forward to hearing more. Diane

  5. Fascinating post Carol. Just shows there is so much to see, if we stop to look.


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