Friday, September 23, 2016

Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed 2016

Plant it and they will come
Two years ago we gathered some milkweed seeds in the fall from local plants. In the early spring I planted the seeds indoors and then transplanted them outside when the weather was right. They did not do much that first year, but this year the plants are huge and healthy.
I have seen only one monarch this year, and was very lucky to get the picture of her laying the egg on July 27. I did not even realize it until I downloaded the picture into the computer, and then I could see that her abdomen was curled under the leaf. I then went back to the plant and looked, and sure enough, there was an egg. 2 more eggs were spotted on a different leaf. I looked at the eggs with a magnifier, and they are beautiful and unmistakable.
We watched the 3 eggs hatch on the 5th day. The caterpillars are very tiny, not much bigger than a hair, and we saw them starting to chow down on the milkweed leaves.
The next morning they could not be found. Hoping they had migrated to different leaves we watched and waited. Nothing appeared and no evidence of leaves being chewed.
Finally we concluded that all three were the victims of predators, of which I read on the internet there are plenty - wasps, spiders, lady bugs, ants, and so on.
That lone Monarch is the only one I have seen this year, so we are grateful that we at least had the opportunity to watch the eggs mature and hatch. I doubt there will be another chance this year. The small miracle is that she found our milkweed!
The next time the leaves with the eggs will be brought inside and put in a container until maturity.
BUT WAIT – August 27, one month after the first Monarch visited and laid her eggs, we saw another Monarch, and watched as she laid one perfect little egg.
Double click or triple click pictures for full size 
She Lays (see abdomen curled under leaf)
The Egg
This one I took in the house on the leaf and put it in a clear plastic container. 5 days later (September 1) the
egg hatched, and the tiny creature immediately started munching. 
Sept 1 – hatched & eating
Sept 1 size comparison
Sept 10 size comparison
On September 10 the caterpillar headed to the top where it attached itself and hung there.
Sept 11 at 6.43am
20 Minutes later (almost complete)
10 minutes later – done!
Sept 19 (8 days later) the empty chrysalis
First picture early morning - still hanging from chrysalis
5 hours later – just before she left (for Mexico?)
Who would have thought a monarch would find that one lone milkweed in our yard? 
I guess the lesson is “Plant it and they will come!”.