Thursday, October 30, 2014

Save the Monarchs! (Part III)

It seems only right that my 100th blog post capture a momentous occasion...the emergence of my monarch butterflies!  Plus - what better way to celebrate Halloween than with some festive black and orange butterflies?

In my earlier posts, I logged my adventure of bringing three monarch caterpillars into my home to rear to adulthood.  As of last week, 10/23/14 (and my birthday!), all three of my monarch caterpillars had emerged from their chrysalis!

10/22/14 (Day 17) - The first butterfly hatches from his chrysalis.  Unfortunately, this happened while I was at work, so I did not witness him emerging from the chrysalis, his scrunched up wings, and the process of his wings drying and pumping blood to the wings to give them their full shape for flight.

How do I know it is a "him," you may ask?  It is really quite simple.  Male butterflies have black scent pouches on their hindwings.  The veins of their wings are also much thinner than that of their female counterparts.

Before releasing my grown up butterfly, I spent a few moments getting acquainted.  Their legs are really quite sticky, making it a bit tricky to remove him from my hand once he was latched on.

10/23/14 (Day 18) - My remaining two butterflies emerged the following day... and on my birthday!  What a sweet birthday present from nature!  One was a strong and energetic female (notice - no scent pouches on the hingwings and thicker veins).

The third butterfly was a male (hindwing scent pouches and thinner veins again).  He was the weakest of all three.  Unlike the other two, he didn't immediately try to fly away and his wings looked a little off kilter.  I kept him around in the habitat for an extra day, thinking he needed a little more time to dry his wings or something.  Unfortunately, I think he was just born not in the most tip-top shape.

It was then time to release my precious darlings into the wild.

They took a liking to the Gregg's Blue Mistflower.  Hopefully, they will stick around the garden until their migratory trip to Mexico.  I understand they usually stay within 200-300 yards of where they were born.

I'm so proud of my Monarch butterflies, and really hope that I gave them a better chance at life and at increasing the diminishing population of Monarchs in the country.  It was a fun (and pretty easy) process to rear the Monarchs, so I encourage you to try it as well if you find Monarch caterpillars in your garden... and assuming you have plenty of milkweed to share.  It is bittersweet to see them fly off and leave home, but hopefully they will return to the garden with future generations of Monarchs.  Every time I see one in the garden, I wonder if it was one of my "pet" monarchs.

For now, I'm left with an empty monarch chrysalis on a milkweed plant.


  1. Thanks for the crash course on butterfly parenting, and for the male/female ID tips. That makes it a lot easier now I know what to look for. And, congratulations! A boy, a girl and another boy!
    "Your" butterflies are welcome additions of course and I'm betting your gardens will now be "their" territory for years to come. I've got plans to put in more milkweed (and hope to start some from seed) and this is all the inspiration I need to stick to those plans even though I'm not seeing a lot of monarch activity. (yet!)

  2. What a wonderful project. Congratulations!

  3. How sweet! So far we haven't had any eggs on the milkweed but we still have a few monarchs around. It's about to get cold so they should be gone soon.

  4. I am so sorry I missed the original dates of all three of these posts--what an adventure and thanks for sharing it. I've witnessed most of the "steps" in the "wild" but I've never reared them myself. Good for you! I think I' may need to do that next year....