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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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