Sunday, September 28, 2014

Yes, Georgia, Monarch Butterflies Do Breed Here

I need to revise some of MY earlier thoughts on monarch butterfly behavior in Georgia. Previously I wrote about my lonely milkweed and my lack of monarch eggs. That part is still true. A monarch has still not laid an egg in my garden.

However, she was not very far away!


About 3 weeks ago I found monarch caterpillars on milkweed growing in a field along my usual walking route. This field has 3 horses and occasional goats so I was surprised to see tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) growing just inside the fence; there was a group of about 10 plants. 

I decided to bring a couple of the caterpillars home with me to raise (they looked like they were seriously eating their way through the stock there).

About halfway through the process






I have some tropical milkweed at home in a pot (grown by accident as it was labeled as seed of a different milkweed). I put the caterpillars on it. They ate like crazy! But after two days, one disappeared (and a small green blotch was left behind – did a bird get it?). I put the remaining one in a protected enclosure and it formed a chrysalis on a piece of window screen.


I kept checking that milkweed in the field. After just one day, all of the caterpillars were gone. I wondered about birds. That field has always been a bluebird hangout. 

Currently there are no new caterpillars and the plants have grown all new leaves. Seed pods are forming and new flowers are blooming.
  
After emerging; chrysalis shell left behind

Hatching day; she's ready!

After 13 days in the chrysalis, mine was ready to open. Of course it happened while I was busy inside, but when I popped out at 2:45 pm to check, there she was, her wings already plumped up. She still needed some time to dry. I could tell it was a female by the markings.


When she was ready, she began exploring the area. It was clear she also needed time to get used to her new wings and legs. I let her crawl up onto my finger and she quickly moved up to my arm. Those four tiny black legs were each tipped with a sharp claw!
Almost ready to leave

She spent the next 90 minutes figuring out her new body. Her first wobbly flight was adorable but short. She was a fast learner, however, and it seemed like she was ready to be on her own about the time I had to go back inside for my 4:30 meeting. She flew away for good while I was gone.

This was not the only monarch in the area, of course. In the past several weeks I had heard of sightings from friends. Yesterday I saw another adult while at the nature center in Roswell. They had had caterpillars several weeks earlier as well.

So I am happy to report that Georgia locations can not only provide nectar for these migrating beauties, but they can also help create the next generation. Adios to our single beauty. Hope you make it all the way to Mexico.
 

2 comments:

  1. So glad you shared your experience and you assisted getting a new generation on its way further South. I've had two monarch sightings in my garden over the past several days, both male, and I am thrilled! These are the first in two years so there is hope that they will fly through Georgia again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. thank you for sharing this lovely story.

    ReplyDelete