Monarch Butterfly ~ A Generational Expedition

Behold The Monarch

The Monarch butterfly travels over 2000 miles in route to it's destination ~ Mexico. Along the way they have their nesting and resting places. My backyard is one of their stop overs. I am delighted to be entertained by this awesome wonder.

Monarch's mate to fertilize the eggs that will produce their offspring.The female will lay her eggs on the underside of the " milkweed " leaf. She flits here and there laying eggs on different areas of the plant throughout the day.They interact with other butterflies as they pass by skipping along on their journey. In between the laying of her eggs she refreshes herself on the "Milkweed" nectur. Monarch females will lay anywhere from 3-60 eggs per day.This appears to be a simple task as she floats,dives and visits other butterflies.

The milkweed plant is the "Host" plant for the Monarch butterfly.It is a very hardy plant and grows in many climates and areas of the world.There are several species of milkweed.

There are four main stages of the butterfly transformation.The egg, caterpillar, pupa ( chrysalis) and the butterfly.

The Egg

After mating, the female lays the fertilized eggs on the milkweed plant.The eggshell is soft and expands as the caterpillar develops within the small white colored capsule.Within 3 to 5 days the caterpillar will emerge by eating the eggshell from the inside out.It will then begin devouring the milkweed plant, leaf,stem and flowers.

The Caterpillar ( Larvae )

The caterpillar (larvae ) stage lasts between 9 and 14 days.During this time many changes are taking place that are not seen as well as, the apparent change in size.As the caterpillar grows there are several phases where they shed their exoskeleton.It does not expand so it replaces itself for the growing caterpillar.

When the time nears the pupa stage, the caterpillar will climb upwards for a place to begin the transformation but, will rest for a few hours first. To attach for this " J " position the caterpillar spins silk into a small button shape and twists several pair of the hind legs to hang from the silk button. The caterpillar will hang upside down for about twenty four hours and then settle into the"J" shape for another twenty four hous while it prepares for the pupa stage...

Pupa Stage

Pupa stage is one of the most exciting events that I have ever witnessed.After hanging in the "J" for a few hours the larvae will begin to change from the end where it is attached. (you can literally watch this happen) the larvae begins to turn a light green color with a smooth texture. The appearance is similar to a small green olive. As the pupa transforms to the point of closing up ~ the legs of the caterpillar are discarded and they fall into a little pile or sometimes stay attached in a black clump.

During this stage ( pupa ), the caterpillar literally turns inside out and the stripes and colors of the caterpillar are now the wings developing into a butterfly.This process takes about ten days.The outside of the " pupa " will begin turning through several shades of green. A gold iridescent ring around the pupa will form and it will open for the butterfly release. At one point the colored wings will begin to show through the clear pupa exoskeloten. This stage lasts( about 10 days ) and then " Behold the Monarch"...

Behold the Monarch

The Monarch will now be moving around and the clear shell will crack open.When the butterfly first emerges it will be wet and have crumpled wings. As the wings dry the fluid is now being absorbed into the wings to give a smooth texture and straight wings of Golden Orange and Black colored lines and dots ~ Magnificent!

It takes several hours for the wings to dry and straighten. Depending on the amount of space it has to spread the wings, the caterpillar may slowly move to a place for more wing room.The drying period is about two to three hours and at last, the butterfly makes it way to the milkweed for fuel, either to stay awhile or to begin this leg of the journey to their next destination.Either way, they will deposit eggs immediately after trying their wings.

Many times the Monarch will stay so, the whole process will start over again right in your own back yard.This may also be the generation that departs because it's destiny is to arrive in Mexico.After her winter vacation she will lay her new eggs and go to Milkweed Heaven.The next generation will carry the torch for the Monarch's long adventure ahead.

You see, there are 4 generations of Monarch's that make this journey to south for the winter and north in the spring..Depending on which generation arrives and where, will make the decision if the next generation will stay or continue on the journey's destination.

If they are the 1st,2nd or 3rd generation headed south, they have the time and destiny to populate more Monarchs into exhistence and die shortly after they lay their eggs. If they are the 4th generation, it is in their nature to travel to Mexico for the winter, live 4-6 months, lay their eggs and then die.Thus the beginning of a 1st generation to start the generational cycle all over again, heading north for the summer.

Summary of Facts

Milkweed is the only plant Monarch caterpillars eat.

Monarch butterflies can lay up to 500 eggs in their lifetime.

It takes all 4 generations to complete each journey north and south.

1st Generation is the one that is born in Mexico and starts the journey north for the whole species after their parents wintered there.

2nd and 3rd generations populate on the way north bringing the ...

4th generation makes the last leg of the journey to it's destination north to Canada, a final destination for the summer and south to Mexico for the winter.

I hope you have enjoyed the information I have discovered as my butterfly garden took shape.I am amazed at these wonderful creatures.

Posterized Note Cards are available.

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