Walking in my local meadow is a favorite pastime of mine. Since not seeing any monarch butterflies there in 2014, I've noticed an increase in activity every year since. First I saw a couple of butterflies, then a few more, until finally this year I saw lots of butterflies and caterpillars. It was joyous to witness the change and I am glad the butterflies have found this special spot.
The abundance of milkweed attracts the monarchs to the meadow.
It attracts others as well.
This year I was thrilled to see monarch caterpillars there for the first time.
I saw so many I was inspired to contact the local University and ask them to postpone their yearly mowing to allow all the caterpillars enough time to hatch.
Monarch butterflies lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed plants so it is important to plant and protect this resource.
After hatching the caterpillars grow 3,000 times larger in just two weeks.
A monarch caterpillar sheds its exoskeleton 5 times. It goes through five instars. An instar is a stage between molts. When the caterpillar emerges from it egg it is a first instar caterpillar. © Ba Rea 2011
Then they hang upside down in a "J" and molt a final time to form a chrysalis.
Images by Sarah Thayer
In 8-10 days the monarch pushes its way out of the chrysalis and after drying its wings for an hour is ready to fly.
Monarch Eclosing © Ba Rea 2011
I love seeing the monarchs flying about the meadow or in my gardens at home.
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