It’s been a wonderful year for Monarch Butterflies. Caterpillars covered our Swamp Milkweed, and even devoured seed pods.
In the early Summer, they enjoyed the Butterfly Weed and Common Milkweed. When the other types of Milkweed had neared the end of their seasons, the Tropical Milkweed (grown from SpruceHaven seed!) bloomed, and hosted more Monarchs.
All Summer, we found eggs and larvae in the Milkweed.
The caterpillars shed their skins several times (5, I think), and grew quickly.
Emerging from chrysalises as crumpled creatures,
they soon unfolded into perfectly formed adults, ready to fly.
This Monarch emerged inside the hose reel container.
And this one hung on the underside of the roof of a birdhouse until it became a Butterfly, then sat on top until it was time to fly to the nearest flowers.
Newly-emerged Monarch Butterflies spent time in a field of Alfalfa blossoms.
Large Zinnias were one of the most popular flowers later in the season. These photos were taken in early October, before the first frost.
An interesting story about the last Monarch to depart...
In late Summer, I bought a bouquet of Tropical Milkweed from a florist supply warehouse, after finding a Monarch larva eating the blooms! (The sales clerk was horrified, but charged me full price for my ratty-looking bouquet, and I ended up paying $10 for my caterpillars -- and taking a lot of teasing!) The flowers sat on my dining room table, and the little guy grew quickly.
A second caterpillar hatched (you can just see it behind the larger one), and both larvae eventually formed chrysalises. The first Butterfly emerged around Thanksgiving, and headed South. I wasn’t sure if the second one would ever fly, late as it was...
It was Saturday morning, a week later, and we were facing the heartbreaking task of saying “Good-bye” to our beautiful 13-year-old dog. He had been my constant companion as I checked on butterflies and gathered Milkweed for caterpillars throughout the Summer. Now, as Autumn approached, his heart was failing, and his body was wearing out. I rested with him on the floor, and held him as he took his last breaths.
Amazingly, outside the door, one last tiny, late-emerging Butterfly sat drying, and readying itself for a long trip. It was smaller than its already-departed friends, and it spent a bit longer than the others preparing for flight, but seemed quite capable of feeding and exercising its wings.
The next day, both creatures were gone. A Rescue Dog and a Rescue Butterfly---on their journeys to better places. I will never look at a Monarch again without remembering my sweet boy and his "Butterfly Angel".