Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Milkweed and Monarchs

by Donna L. Watkins

Milkweed plants are essential for the survival of the Monarch Butterfly. It is the only plant species that the caterpillar stage of the butterfly eats. There are several varieties of milkweed with most people being familiar with Butterfly Weed.

We have what is known as Common Milkweed. The Monarch Butterfly lays it's eggs on the leaves. They generally place one egg on a leaf so the caterpillar will have enough food to eat and grow before it has to travel to another leaf. The eggs are tiny cream-colored dots barely the size of a pencil point. Here's a photo of a Monarch egg on a leaf.

The caterpillars start off very tiny, as you can see in this photo of one in comparison to my thumb nail. It doesn't take long They will go through 5 stages from 2mm to 45mm when full grown and ready to spin their chrysalis. They grow nice and fat and so colorful.

After they go into the pupa stage (chrysalis), they go from being a caterpillar to a butterfly, ready to begin the process all over again. This is one that I saw one morning soon after he had come from the chrysalis (shown beside him in the photo).

He was stretching his wings with his back to the sun to warm him before he could fly away to begin life afresh as a butterfly.

It is a male which you can tell by the black dots on the lower part of the wings.

Related Articles:
Milkweed For Monarchs
Monarch Butterfly
Monarch Migration Begins
The Incredible Monarch Story
Become a Monarch Waystation

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