|Caterpillar munching |
on milkweed on Aug. 19.
First, they dine on milkweed. Second, they have very specific living conditions. In their early stages as a caterpillar, they need to be kept on a clean milkweed leaf that is placed on top of a damp paper towel. This paper towel needs to be changed almost daily for hygiene. The leaves need to be replaced between every 2-3 days to remain fresh. In addition, this paper towel/milkweed leaf combination is kept in a small plastic container with the lid ajar (to allow for air circulation) but to help keep moisture in.
As the caterpillars grow larger, they can live on a stem of milkweed in a small bud vase filled with fresh water. (Diane used recycled iced coffee drink containers which worked really well.)
|Caterpillar prepares for chrysalis, Aug. 21.|
|The chrysalis stage of the monarch butterfly, photo taken on Aug. 22.|
Today, this caterpillar became a beautiful (female) butterfly. (Live Monarch has a helpful page in figuring out if the butterfly is male or female.)
But she took her time in coming out.
The coloring of her pupa began to lose its green hue last night. It gradually became more transparent as the night went on. The wings were visible inside.
|Early this morning, the wings were visible.|
And then, at 12:09 p.m. - magic happened.
|Letting her wings dry.|
|Learning how to use her wings.|
|Set free in the garden. She humored me for about 10 minutes for photos,|
then she was on her way.
|Butterfly weed in bloom.|
Needless to say, it's important to help monarch butterflies because their numbers have been steadily declining over the years due to increased pesticide use and land development. In both cases, the host plant of monarch butterflies - milkweed - has been greatly reduced.
You can help monarch butterflies by not only growing plants that provide nectar, but by growing milkweed and butterfly weed in your garden. These two plants act as host plants for female monarch butterflies to lay eggs on. Milkweed is the preferred plant, but I have seen monarch caterpillars settle for butterfly weed in the past, as seen in the photo below from September 2012.