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Monday, May 9, 2016

The Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly

Hi my friends and Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, whether they be your own children, your nieces, nephews, fur babies or adopted children that you nuture and care for in any which way. I have something a little different for you today. Besides my stamping therapy, I have started another hobby in which I also nuture some of God's most wonderful creatures - the Monarch butterfly. Monarchs are endangered so there is a wide-spread movement to save them and help them to replenish their species. I just started this project last Spring, but it sure has taken off and they do take a good chunk of my free time every day (which isn't that much to begin with since I also have a full time job).

Some friends have asked me about raising these butterflies and what all it entails, so I thought I would do this blog post to show you what Monarchs are and what to do to help them save the species.

First of all to get Monarchs or any kind of butterfly you need to attract them to your yard. You need to have the kind of flowering plants that they like where they can get the nectar to sustain their own life. Then you need to have a place where they can lay their eggs and something for food for their offspring - baby caterpillars.

 Here is part of my garden where I have flowering plants. I also have a rose garden and other shrubs and plants around the yard that will attract the butterflies.

This is the first step, next you need to have plenty of Milkweed plants for the butterflies to lay their eggs on. These are called Host Plants. They lay their eggs and then when the caterpillars hatch, they eat the leaves (devour is more like it) and grow to be big enough to turn into a chrysalis. This is my milkweed garden area which has about 1/2 dozen milkweed plants planted where the butterflies can come and lay their eggs.

I also have to keep some in pots to put in the butterfly hutch where they are transferred in order to keep them safe from predators and be able to have a safe place to become a chrysalis.

This is the butterfly hutch that I had built.  It will hold 6, 1 gallon pots of Milkweed. 
 Here is a little caterpillar that probably hatched a few days ago. I take this and put it in one of the pots in the hutch so it will have more food to grow on.
They continue to eat and grow until they get to be about this big.  Then they are ready for their next step - becoming a chrysalis.

When they get ready to change, they climb to the top of the hutch which is screen but they don't need a hutch to attach, it can be anywhere outside like a windowsill, door jamb, even one of the milkweed plants, and they attach themselves. Here's a look inside the upper part of the hutch where you can see tons of chrysalises hanging down. I always thought that they spun a web around the caterpillar in order to make the chrysalis, but they actually shed their outer skin and the chrysalis is formed inside.
These are all fairly new ones. You can see some that are clear which are ones that butterflies have already hatched from.
Before they hatch, the chrysalis gets dark as the butterfly forms inside. You can see the colors through the skin. Here is a more recent photo showing many empty shells and a few dark ones that are getting close to hatching. I have a couple boards across the top to keep rain from pouring down on top of them.
My great desire is to see these transformations happen.  Would love to see one shedding it's skin and also see one coming out of the chrysalis.  That hasn't happened yet. There is no clear way to tell when either event will happen without sitting out there all day and night waiting for it to happen. I haven't gotten that desperate yet.  ;) Here are some butterflies that have recently hatched. It takes some time for their wings to dry and for them to be able to fly. If it's warm I keep them in the hutch during the day and will release them in the evening before it gets dark.
Since I got started this year, I've been able to release over 40 butterflies. These days I don't keep track anymore.  I'm putting more in the hutch and releasing more butterflies every day.  Every day now at least one butterfly comes back and flies all around my yard and will visit the blooming flowers for some nectar. I like to think that they are coming home from where they started.
Well, that's about it. I hope you enjoy this little walk through showing how a Monarch butterfly becomes a butterfly.  If you want to know more, there are many websites where you can find answers to your questions.


  1. Maggie, this is absolutely beautitful! I love the step by step of seeing what I hear you talking about, since I'm a visual learner :) They have blossomed under your loving care!

  2. Well, this was very interesting! I've been wondering how you nurtured Monarchs, and now I know. You described the process perfectly and your photos are great. It's so nice that the caterpillars only feed on one type of plant so you don't have to worry about the rest of your garden. I don't see Monarchs here, but maybe that's because I don't grow milkweed. Wonder if they'd come if I grew milkweed. It grows wild in the fields here. I'll have to Google more info. Thanks for this wonderful post, Maggie!

  3. What a lot of chrysalii you have there Maggie - your really are a wonderful nurturing person

  4. I am so visual- I was loving hearing all about the butterflies, but so much better to see the process! The hutch is a great idea, and love seeing all of the chrysalis on the top the hutch inside, growing- imagining all of them becoming butterflies. How beautiful!!!

  5. This is a wonderful post, Maggie! Thank you for all the great info and for the fabulous photos! Hugs!

  6. Maggie, thank you for sharing all the information - and photos - of "your" monarchs!

  7. Such an awesome post Maggie! I really enjoyed reading it and learning about the process.


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