When we bought our home six years ago, the previous homeowner had milkweed plants growing near the back door. At the time, I had no idea that milkweed was a huge part of Monarch caterpillars’ diet, but I was sure happy when I saw my first little caterpillar on the plant! I had never seen one in nature before, it was so much fun to watch.
This year, we had 3 caterpillars munching away at our milkweed plants and one in particular stayed the entire transformation from larva stage until pupa stage. Here is the transformation in photos I took:
This is when we first found our little buddy. My daughter spotted it somehow with her hawk-like eyesight. I cannot express how tiny this little bugger was; Less than 1mm!
This was about 3-5 days later. The size has increased by 5 or 6 times the size when we first found it.
And this was the last time we saw the caterpillar… about 14 days after first noticing him. All grown up and ready for the next stage:
Unfortunately we don’t know where he made his chrysalis, but it would be so neat to see that stage as well. Next year we might try building something that will hopefully appeal to the caterpillars to stick around.
Monarchs feed almost exclusively on Milkweed plants and as adult butterflies, they get a lot of their nutrients from the milkweed flowers. Consider planting some in your garden if you haven’t already!
Each year, millions of Monarchs make their way down to Mexico because it’s too cold in Minnesota for them to survive. We celebrate the kick off of this 1500 mile migration at Lake Nokomis at the Minneapolis Monarch Festival which takes place at the beginning of September. It’s a great opportunity to learn tons of interesting facts about Monarch Butterflies and learn why they are so essential to our environment, plus there are great vendors with delicious food and amazing entertainers as well. I love the awareness this spreads throughout the community. Do you have a similar event in your neck of the woods?
A few facts about Monarch Butterflies:
- Their number one most important job is pollinating and they are great at it!
- They eat destructive bugs from other plants.
- Once their life is over, they play an important role by being a beneficial food source to others, such as bats, birds, lizards, monkeys and snakes.
- They are beautiful and bring joy to those that see them. 🙂
- Average lifespan is 6-8 months.
- Male Monarchs have a black spot on the bottom quarter of each wing, which females don’t so they are easy to distinguish between.
- The prevalence of Monarchs in our environment give scientists great insight on our ecosystem and how it is changing.
So consider what plants you have in your yard and think about making a butterfly-friendly area.
What is your favorite type of butterfly?