Hungry Monarch Caterpillars

Our Lens-Artists challenge from guest host Priscilla at Scillagrace is to “present a “Getting To Know You” post showing your relationship with a subject you’ve photographed. The subject could be a Person, a Place, a Culture, an Object…anything that has captured your attention, won your affection and taught you a thing or two.”

I’ve always enjoyed watching butterflies as they fly from one flower to another so I planted a butterfly garden several years ago. The more I watched them the more I wanted to learn about them. Monarchs frequently fly through the area to feed and lay their eggs on milkweed plants.

Monarch butterflies will feed on many different nectar plants. I have found Mexican Sunflowers to be a favorite for them and many other varieties of butterflies. By summer the garden will be covered with zinnias, Mexican Sunflowers, coneflowers, and other nectar plants.

Right now my garden is in it’s early stages with very few blooms. I’m afraid the few Monarch butterflies that have come by my garden have been disappointed in the slim pickings. The only nectar plant blooming right now is a single Mexican sunflower with multiple blooms. I’ve been watching the butterflies drink their fill.

Monarch butterfly on Mexican Sunflower

Every year I enjoy getting to know the caterpillars before they move on to become butterflies. I’ve learned their job is to eat so they have the strength to transform into a chrysalis.

The only plant that Monarch caterpillars feed on is milkweed (Asclepias). This year the female Monarchs laid their eggs on just about every available milkweed leaf they could find. The eggs hatched into tiny caterpillars and for the second year in a row they have devoured every leaf on every milkweed plant.

I observed the first group of caterpillars for several days and observed how quickly they grew before crawling off to make their chrysalis.

The caterpillars like to spin their chrysalis in a safe place and I very rarely can find them. Hopefully all the these caterpillars will emerge as beautiful Monarchs.

Many thanks to Priscilla at Scillagrace.com for this Photo Challenge. Please be sure to visit her original post at Lens-Artists Challenge #145: Getting to Know You

Monarch Caterpillar Update

Just two days after I posted about the Monarch caterpillars in my butterfly garden the caterpillars are continuing to devour every leaf on several of my milkweed plants. One bite at a time, they chew up a leaf and move on to the next. In just a few days they have stripped some of the plants until there is nothing left but bare stems.

Yesterday morning I counted about 10 caterpillars. One had attached itself in the hose reel on the edge of the flower bed. It was preparing to transform into a chrysalis.

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Monarch Caterpillar preparing to make chrysalis

A little while later I settled down in my chair under the arbor to read a book. I was facing the hose reel but was so engrossed in the book I didn’t look up for about 30 minutes. When I finally glanced over at the caterpillar I saw that while I was reading it had become a chrysalis.

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Monarch chrysalis day 1

Today there are more caterpillars and less milkweed leaves. They will continue taking their bites until they are full grown and ready to transform into a chrysalis.

Meanwhile, there are still Monarch butterflies flying around in pairs doing their mating dance. I’ve had a hard time getting a picture but I managed to catch this one drinking nectar on a Mexican Sunflower.

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Monarch butterfly feeding on Mexican Sunflower

I’ll be keeping my eye on the chrysalis and hope to see a butterfly emerge in about 7 to 10 days.

This post was inspired by Discover Prompts Day 9 -Bite.

Pairs of Monarch Caterpillars

We are in the middle of the butterfly breeding season. I’ve seen pairs of Monarch butterflies flying around our yard recently and the females have been laying their eggs on milkweed leaves in my small backyard butterfly garden.

This morning I counted seven caterpillars on the milkweed including two different pairs munching on the leaves.

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Pair of Monarch Caterpillars on Milkweed

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Pair of monarch caterpillars on milkweed

After about two weeks of eating, the caterpillar will be full grown and will make it’s crysalis. Approximately 10 days later the monarch butterfly will emerge.

This post was inspired by Discover Prompts Day 9 -Pairs.

 

Winter in the Butterfly Garden

Although most of the plants in my butterfly garden are finished blooming for the winter, some of flowering plants continued to bloom in late December and early January.

The milkweed is blooming and attracting Monarch butterflies. Because Hurricane Irma destroyed my butterfly garden in 2017 there were no butterflies or caterpillars last winter. I replanted the garden in the spring of 2018 and in December, 2018 I was thrilled to find monarchs and caterpillars on the milkweed once again.

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Monarch on milkweed in January

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Monarch Caterpillar

Two days later, this caterpillar had changed into a chrysalis.

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Monarch Chrysalis December 24, 2018

I checked on the chrysalis every day. A week later, on New Year’s Eve, it was starting to change.

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Week old monarch chrysalis after rain December 31, 2018

I continued checking on it daily and I could see subtle changes each day. Just when I knew it wouldn’t be long before a butterfly emerged, I found it lying on the ground the morning of January 5. We did some research on the internet to find out if there was anything we could do to save it. We tied it to a branch with piece of thread and let it hang in a jar. It’s been over a week since then and still there is no change.

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We rescued the Chrysalis after it fell on the ground on January 5, 2019

I wish there had been a happier ending to this post. I’m sad to say that our butterfly didn’t make it.

 

December Caterpillars in Coastal Georgia

I’ve been so busy lately with Thanksgiving, cleaning up after Hurricane Matthew, and getting ready for Christmas I haven’t had much time to look at my butterfly garden.

With all our Christmas packages and cards in the mail, I could finally catch my breath this morning so I went out to our porch to enjoy my second cup of tea. As soon as I sat down I saw a Monarch butterfly flitting around our milkweed. I abandoned my tea, grabbed my camera and rushed downstairs to get a picture. The butterfly took off but when I began to examine the milkweed I was excited to find several caterpillars munching away on the leaves.

Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed - December 15, 2016
Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed – December 15, 2016

Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed - December 15, 2016
Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed – December 15, 2016