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January 15, 2018

Caring for Hungry Monarch Butterfly Babies

Today I had to do a mercy dash, having woken up to find that our baby monarchs had eaten themselves out of house and home. All the local garden centres were out of swan plants, as tends to happen at this time of year... but luckily I found a post on the Neighbourly website by a local woman (member of www.monarch.org.nz) who mentioned that she grows and sells swan plants. I got in touch and she told me that there were only two left - so I jumped in the car to quickly nab them for our beautiful stripy caterpillar family.

When I got the plants home I had to rummage through the nearby overgrown parsley plants to find the caterpillars that had wandered off in search of food, and then relocate them to the new lush greenery. Now our six big babies, and several smaller ones, are happily munching away. Relief all around!

Yesterday, when watching the parents flying around and I had visions of them thinking, "Oh no... our babies will be running out of food any minute now!". They seemed more frantic than usual. Or am I just projecting?

I'm so invested in their welfare I even put up an umbrella to shade them from the harsh afternoon sun. I'm sure they appreciate my efforts :-)

So now, if we want to keep them around once they transform into beautiful monarch butterflies, it's off to the garden centre for a selection of purple, pink and blue flowers. And so the cycle begins again.

Looks like we're about to start the pupation phase so I've given them some protection in the form of an old net curtain. And we've planted some purple flowers planted today, near the swan plants. What more could a monarch butterfly family want?
Success!

Interesting things I've learned...

When the caterpillar is in his chrysalis he's called a pupa. In this stage the caterpillar digests his own body to create his butterfly form. When the chrysalis turns dark or clear, the butterfly's about to emerge. Monarch butterflies generally leave the chrysalis within 48 hours once it turns dark.

Monarchs born in Spring and Summer live from 2-6 weeks. Each year, the final generation, born in early Autumn, migrate to overwintering grounds and don’t mate until Spring. These monarchs live for up to 9 months and spend the winter clustered in trees until weather and temperature conditions allow them to return to their breeding grounds.

1 Comment

  1. Lovely work, Anita! Nice to hear about people caring for monarchs. They make great pets.:)

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