A Visitor in the Vegetables

I always allow some milkweed to grow in my vegetable garden. I don’t let it take over, but I want to provide a hospitable place for monarch butterflies. In case you didn’t already know, milkweed is the ONLY thing monarch larvae eat. I feel they have enough to contend with, and this is the least I can do. It is obvious that monarch larvae have been munching on these leaves. Good! I was hopeful I might actually catch some of them in the act.

Some serious munching going on here

I didn’t see any eating, but when I was harvesting my string beans, I saw a monarch caterpillar – more or less out in the open –  about to pupate. I had always assumed they did this on the undersides of milkweed leaves, but I guess I was wrong. This one was attached to the fence the beans climb on, about three feet high.

Pupating among the beans

After taking a few photos, I left the house for about two hours. As soon as I came home, I went outside to check on the caterpillar, and I found this. That sure didn’t take long!

The chrysalis

My next step was to go online to try and learn more about this stage in the monarch’s development. The first thing I found out is that unlike moths, monarchs do not spin cocoons. A monarch during this pupa stage is properly called a chrysalis, and the chrysalis is found under the skin of the larva when the last layer splits and falls away.

So, how long will it be before a butterfly emerges from the chrysalis? It seems temperature can affect the speed of the metamorphosis. The hotter the days and nights, the faster it happens. I figure it’ll be between a week and two weeks before this one emerges. It would be great to catch the big event, but I can’t camp out with the beans until it happens. I’ll just have to check on it every day – and of course I’ll keep you posted.


About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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3 Responses to A Visitor in the Vegetables

  1. Wendy says:

    Very cool! I can’t believe the process was so quick! I’ve purchased a few sets for my kids to watch this process and it’s so fascinating. I don’t think I’ve seen a butterfly emerge, but we did observe the chrysalis moving ever so slightly during the end of the phase.

    How lucky that you were able to catch this guy!


    • dirtynailz says:

      I know how lucky I was, believe me! I check on that chrysalis every day and sometimes I have trouble finding it because it blends in so well with the bean leaves.
      We’ve had a few windy thunderstorms lately, and I worry that it’ll blow away, but it’s still there. That caterpillar knew what it was doing!


  2. Pingback: Metamorphosis Accomplished! « Digging RI

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