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Monarch Butterflies. Plant Milkweed and Raise your own Monarchs

Updated on April 19, 2013

Life Stages of the monarch Butterfly.

The Poisonous Caterpillar showing Warning Coloration munching on Milkweed.
The Poisonous Caterpillar showing Warning Coloration munching on Milkweed.
The beautiful, gilded Chrysalis fit for a King
The beautiful, gilded Chrysalis fit for a King
Monarch Butterfly feeding on nectar from an Aster in Canada
Monarch Butterfly feeding on nectar from an Aster in Canada
A flock of Adult Monarchs in a Butterfly Sanctuary/
A flock of Adult Monarchs in a Butterfly Sanctuary/
A Monarch Butterfly laying eggs on a Swan Plant (type of Milkweed) on the underside of a leaf........All photos courtesy Flickr.
A Monarch Butterfly laying eggs on a Swan Plant (type of Milkweed) on the underside of a leaf........All photos courtesy Flickr.

The Amazing Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Recently while staying in New Zealand I was fascinated by ranks of boring looking Milkweed in almost every garden center (called Swan Plant in New Zealand because of the shape of their seed pods). On enquiring I was told that many people have them in their gardens to attract Monarch Butterflies as the Swan Plant is their food plant. The plant itself is poisonous so by feeding on the plant the caterpillars become poisonous to their enemies, birds and mice.

Armed with a pot I placed it in a sunny sheltered part of the garden. Sure enough a week or so later a beautiful, big Monarch Butterfly visited laying tiny eggs on the underside of the leaves. After doing this she left and we never saw her again. What happened afterwards is best explained in the following videos.

The Monarch Butterfly is so called because it is considered the King of Butterflies. This title has been earned not only fpr its size, number and beauty but also because of its amazing migration through four generations. Even the Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis is regal with its golden band around a glorious, green chrysalis. A chrysalis of supreme beauty fit for a king

The Migration starts in Mexico during the Northern hemisphere Winter. Flocks of Monarchs cluster together for warmth in wooded parts of central Mexico. As the days lengthen in Spring and the heat of the sun warms up the Monarch butterflies they take off and fly North. Their destination is Canada where they spend the Summer. With the approach of Winter and the shortening days they turn around and fly back again. This amazing feat of navigation and endurance is undertaken by the fourth generations of Monarch which is empowered to live longer than the previous three generations. If that isn't magic, I don't know what is!

In countries that are warm all year round the Monarch doesn't migrate but it over winters in dense conifer forests. This makes New Zealand an ideal place for it. Hawaii, Bermuda and several other similarly blessed countries are also year round hosts. The monarch was first found in New Zealand in the mid 1800's and soon after in Australia where it is called The Wanderer.

The following video shows the hatching of the tiny egg and what happens next. Plant some milkweed plants and enjoy this miracle for yourself. Bear in mind that the whole procedure slows down in colder weather. Milkweed is being eliminated from farmland at an alarming rate so even a few plants can help.

This year we didn't start until nearly the end of the New Zealand summer but we managed to rear 5 new butterflies with another 6 set to hatch after our departure. Watching the whole process brought us great pleasure.Especially if you have children do give it a try.



Egg to Caterpillar

Caterpillar to Chrysalis.

The next video shows the metamorphosis from Caterpillar to Chrysalis. It takes just over two weeks for the caterpillar to change into a Chrysalis. My one milkweed plant was woefully inadequate and we ended up rushing back to the nursery to buy six in all to keep up with the voracious appetite of our fourteen caterpillars. The Chrysalis is truly beautiful and just a hint of the splendor to follow.

Caterpillar to chrysalis

And Finally!

This last stage takes place after over a week with the Chrysalis gradually darkening until it is almost black and then Voila! The Monarch Butterfly emerges in all its glory. Well worth the effort and well worth growing the Milkweed to feed these amazing creatures. I hope you get to enjoy the same delight yourself one day. Enjoy!

Chrysalis to Butterfly

Danger

The Milkweed is poisonous and must be handled with care. It gives off a toxic, milky, white sap that is a nasty skin irritant. Many schools in New Zealand have been told to remove the plants from the school gardens because of this. Take care to keep children and animals away from the plant.

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    • Huntgoddess profile image

      Huntgoddess 

      4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Yes!!

      I wonder if there is any environmental group that is doing exactly that?

      There is a worldwide group, called March against Monsanto. I can't post the link here, but it's will be easy to find.

      Maybe some online petitions, also, asking these stores to stop selling the stuff?

      Don't give up. Write more Hubs about this, too, so that folks find out. I think I might do the same.

      Thanks Gypsy.

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      It gives me the creeps seeing it piled high in garden centers. Walmart. Home Depot. Lowes etc. I feel like putting sign saying buy at your peril. No bees no food!

    • Huntgoddess profile image

      Huntgoddess 

      4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Roundup!

      Yes, of course it's Roundup. We have to get rid of that stuff.

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Glad you enjoyed the hub. I feel very strongly about their plight. In NZ they don't migrate. I raised over 20 of them during my stay there. Probably Roundup has a lot to do with their demise. I will investigate the photos, thanks

    • Huntgoddess profile image

      Huntgoddess 

      4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      I remember the Monarch from when I was a little girl, in the '50's. I miss them so much. It is sad what has happened to these beauties.

      We all need to play a part in helping the Monarch survive and thrive. There is a website that gives away free milkweed seeds for this purpose. I hope it's not too late to bring back the Monarch population.

      Voted up, awesome, beautiful, useful.

      One thing, though: Maybe you could make some of your photos a little smaller. (There's a box you can click in the "Photo" capsule.) Some of them have slightly lower resolution. Their true beauty will show better with higher resolution.

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Thank you for your kind comment kidscrafts, it surely is miraculous. Ugly poisonous caterpillars changing from gilded Chrysalis to beautiful butterflies.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 

      4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Fantastic hub! I find the cycle of the butterflies most fascinating!

      Once, I had a student who brought a container with two chrysalis and told me that during the day, one of them would open for a butterfly. An it did! That was the best science lesson that I could give the students... nature itself was working for me!

      Thanks for sharing!

      Voted up, interesting and beautiful!

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Glad you visited Suzette. We are both in awe of these amazing creatures.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      6 years ago from Taos, NM

      Great Hub! I'll bet you enjoyed raising these Monarchs. They are just beautiful and their cycle of life is amazing. I learned some from your hub! Very interesting and your photos are great!

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Hi prasetio, aren't they wonderful. Our caterpillars hatched from cocoons into butterflies last night! Thanks for coming by.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 

      8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      from ugly become beauty. good work. I get nice information here. And I like all the picture above. thanks

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Thanks for the comment again, you are too kind Iounn. :)

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      8 years ago

      quite so and this one is a good reminder to myself of why I have you fanned. I'm so often either preoccupied or on sabbatical that I miss a lot of real gems. your Hubs are always gems. :)

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Hi Iounn, thanks for coming b and yur kind comment. They are wonderous creatures aren't they?

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      8 years ago

      informative and totally beautiful. I love butterflies both as what they are and as symbols. excellent hub~

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Thanks Dim Glad you enjoyed the amazing experience. X

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 

      8 years ago from Great Britain

      AWESOME !!!!!!

      That's all I can say, oh and

      Thank you. x

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Hello FGual, so glad you enjoyed the hub. Their story is nothing short of mind blowing isn't it.

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Hi Zsuzsy thanks for dropping by. So glad you are providing a habitat for these amazing creatures. They are loosing so much with all the modern developments.

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Hi reddog, I cheated this year by going to New Zealand and enjoying their summer. Spring takes so long to reach the Sierras. Hold on it's just around the corner!Thanks for coming by.

    • FGual profile image

      FGual 

      8 years ago from USA

      Great picture story here. It's amazing that such fragile creatures make the long migration to Mexico every year.

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Hi Micky they are magnificent creatures and the whole process is truly amazing. Thanks for the comment.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      What a fabulous hub. In my backfield I always leave a 10 foot wide strip of milkweed just for my favorite friends. It would be one of the best things to see them all in their winter homes in Mexico.

      super pics too thanks for sharing

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Glad you found the subject interesting De! Thanks for coming by.

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Hi Peter thanks for the comment.Glad you came by.

    • reddog1027 profile image

      reddog1027 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      This hub makes it harder than ever to wait for spring. My gardnening fingers are itching lick crazy.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      Very, very nice. Great hu, great videos! I love the Monarch so much. I do have a poem about the Monarch. It is a magnificent creature!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      An unusual subject made interesting. Thanks :-)

    • Peter Dickinson profile image

      Peter Dickinson 

      8 years ago from South East Asia

      Extremely informative. Nice choice of photos. Thank you.

    • Gypsy Willow profile imageAUTHOR

      Gypsy Willow 

      8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Thanks for the kind comment Hello hello. I am so glad you enjoyed it

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      That is a beautiful written and enjoyable to read hub. Thank you

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