Monday, June 30, 2014


i have been waiting to see this. the monarch butterfly emergence, or eclosion, from the chrysalis.

this morning i got to watch 3 of them emerge.

i did not get my camera in time to get him actually pushing out of the chrysalis - but got these pictures immediately after he slipped free.

when they first emerge from the chrysalis, their wings are tiny and wrinkled. their abdomen is swollen and full of liquid. they pump liquid from their abdomen into their wings.

a few minutes later the wings are fully expanded - but they are soft and vulnerable. they hang vertically for a few hours until their wings are hardened and this butterfly is ready to fly !

so far... i have 3 girls and 1 boy. i have 9 chrysalis left.

this is their fourth, and last, stage of life... the butterfly.

baby birds

everything is alive in the garden... even the baby birds are hatching now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


i ended up with 14 caterpillars this round. i have a few left hanging in 'j position' and the rest are already a chrysalis.

i had a terrible fatality - something i hadn't seen before - one of the caterpillars fell half way through becoming a chrysalis. i don't know why... maybe he did not attach himself securely. it was very sad.

so in a 10-14 days i will start releasing 13 beautiful monarch butterflies.

this is their third stage of life... the chrysalis, or pupa.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

j position

after munching on milkweed for about 2 weeks a few of my caterpillars have climbed up to a safe place and have assumed 'j position'.

they attach themselves with silk and hold in this position for a day or two before starting the process of metamorphosis.

Monday, June 16, 2014

male or female ?

the top picture is a female.. the bottom picture is a male.

the female has thicker black wing veins.

the male has a black dot on the lower wing.

the black dot releases a scent, a pheromone, for attracting females. 

full house

it got very quiet here. i thought they had all moved on and the season was over.

i ended up raising and releasing 15 beautiful monarch butterflies.

10 girls.
3 boys.
2 unknown (before i knew how to tell them apart).

2 days ago i found 3 caterpillars out in the garden on some milkweed.

the next day i found 4 more.

and this morning i found 3 more.

i have a full house now again.

watching them this morning chomp away at the milkweed leaves.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


learning more about these fascinating creatures...

they have three body parts.
they have a head, and a body with a thorax and an abdomen.

each thoracic segment has a pair of jointed, or true legs. the abdominal segments have false legs, or prolegs. there are five pairs of prolegs which have tiny hooks on them that hold them onto a leaf. they look like little suction cups.

hi there

i loved this little guy.

caterpillars have six pairs of eyes (called ocelli) but even with all those eyes, their vision is really poor. their tentacles help to guide them.

i was concerned about him because i saw that one of his tentacles was crooked and bent down.

i watched him grow to full size, and then become a chrysalis.

i was happy to release this little one as a butterfly - happy to see him fly away.


they are growing quickly.

they will be caterpillars - their second stage of life - for about 14 days.

each caterpillar will eat about 20 milkweed leaves during this time.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

it's official

monarchs are in trouble. their journey is threatened because the united states uses insecticides and herbicides for agriculture - and it has eliminated much of the milkweed. they consider it a 'weed' - but the butterflies and caterpillars depend on it for survival.

also, illegal logging remains a problem in mexico, and is devastating their winter habitat, even though these areas are protected.

so i decided to get involved  - to do what i could do to protect and encourage future generations of monarch butterflies - and as a tribute to my friend, emmet.

i am a certified and registered monarch waystation through monarch watch.


i have baby caterpillars hatching all over the place. these darling little things are less than a 1/8" long. they immediately start eating the milkweed leaves.

i am scrambling to make sure i have enough milkweed to feed them. i roam the neighborhood looking for milkweed. i found 2 neighbors who have pretty good size plants in their yard. i run back up to the nursery to get 2 more plants.

i'm ready.

this is their second stage of life... the caterpillar, or larvae.

the beginning

i found this little egg on a milkweed leaf. after looking up 'monarch butterfly egg' images online... i found out, it was.

this was my first egg. as the weeks went on - i started noticing more and more of these little whitish yellow dots all over my milkweed.

i was so excited that what i had read about - was happening in my yard. the monarchs were coming.

this is their first stage of life... the egg.

close up of egg right before the caterpillar hatched

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

plant milkweed

these are milkweed seed pods.

i love these. when they float around the yard, they remind me of little fairies.

i planted milkweed. lots of milkweed.

from when the caterpillars hatch to full grown, each one will need at least 20 leaves.

i bought a few plants from the local nursery, started some from seed, and some from cuttings.

milkweed is self propagating. you can cut 4" stems off an established plant, place it in water - and once it has roots, plant it in your garden.

caution with milkweed: when cutting a growing plant, the white "milk" sap of the plant contains components that can irritate the skin and eyes. the sap is like the juice of a hot pepper that can create a slow burning sensation. wash your hands well if you get some on you. do not eat milkweed. it tastes horrible and consumption of even a small amount is a purgative (makes you vomit). the plants also contains varied amounts of a Cardenolide glycosides which can be harmful and cause cardiac arrest if ingested in large amounts. this horrible taste is the major defense of the monarch against predators.

Monday, June 2, 2014

on the road

i started to learn more about the monarch butterfly. they make an incredible journey from the northern states and canada down to mexico, california and florida each year to escape the cold winters. they leave the colder areas around october and travel over 2,500 miles. depending on their starting point and destination, it could take them anywhere from 2 to 6 months. once they made it to their summer homes - they hibernate.

in february thru march they start the trip back north. but these butterflies do not live as long. instead, it takes three generations to make it back - each generation living 2 to 6 weeks and getting further north. and then the process starts again.

the monarch butterfly has the most highly evolved migration pattern of any known species of butterfly or moth and perhaps any known insect.

so now that i had milkweed in my garden… i would be one of their stops.

as many as 60 million butterflies cluster together, covering whole tree trunks and branches, in hibernation in the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico