Several years ago I planted milkweed for the Monarchs to help on their migratory journey. Milkweed is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly. The Monarchs came.
I was so pleased when the butterflies laid eggs and hung out in my garden all summer; it was alive with activity.
The next year the milkweed self-sowed and popped up all over the garden. More Monarchs came. I registered my yard with the Monarch Waystation Program.
This year I have more Monarchs than every year before, counting at least 35 caterpillars this morning. I moved these guys to another milkweed plant. They devoured an entire plant and were left clinging to twigs. Luckily, milkweed recovers very quickly.
This is the pupa. Isn’t it beautiful? The green is bright and there are little gold flecks and it looks like a gold thread has been sewn in near the top. (Click on photo to get a better view.)
Just before the Monarch butterfly emerges, the pupa turns clear and you can see the Monarch inside.
I watched how a caterpillar turns into a pupa and it was like a scene from a science fiction movie. I assumed they spun a little cocoon. Nope. The caterpillar splits open it’s back and this is inside. You have to see it for yourself! One year I put a milkweed plant in a pot with a tomato cage. I lined the cage with window screen to keep a caterpillar inside and took the pot to work to show everyone. The office, and even a few customers, gathered around to watch the show.
Just as fascinating is how the butterfly plops out with tiny wings and huge body. It takes about an hour for the wings to fill with fluid and expand large enough to carry the butterfly on its first flight.
Want to help the Monarchs? Want to bring butterflies to your garden? If you plant it, they will come. Find out more information about Monarch conservation at MonarchWatch.org.