Staff Pick: Stacy’s Monarch Butterflies

gillnurseryBirds, Butterflies, and Bees, Plant Spotlight2 Comments

I’m usually hard at work in the accounting office here at Gill’s, but I’m the first one outside to greet a new truck of plants to pick things to try in my garden at home. Seeing how much our customers love planting Tropical Butterfly Weed (Milkweed) in their gardens, I decided to purchase a couple of plants for myself.  The very same day I brought the plants home, I noticed a Monarch flying around and landing on the plants. Then, about 4 or 5 days later, I started seeing tiny caterpillars!

After the caterpillars hatch from their eggs, they begin to feed on the leaves of the plant and let me tell you they are hungry little caterpillars. I watched them chew through entire leaves in just a few seconds!

Once they’ve eaten enough leaves, they go through 5 caterpillar (instar) stages, in which they molt their skin, increasing in size with each stage. In their final stage, they find a safe place to hang upside down in a J shape, then shed for the last time forming a light green chrysalis (pupa) that will protect the caterpillars as they transform into beautiful butterflies. I made sure to get a close-up photo of each stage, and more photos once the butterflies emerged.

Butterfly Weed is the only host plant for the Monarch butterfly, but there are many other plants that attract other types of butterflies such as Salvia, Coreopsis, Penta, Zinnias, and Buddleia (aka Butterfly Bush). Make sure you have plenty of these in your garden so your butterflies will have plenty of nectar to feed on!


2 Comments on “Staff Pick: Stacy’s Monarch Butterflies”

  1. I love butterflies too, but not when their caterpillars strip a beautiful Passion fruit vine in one day. They ate the buds, leaves and even the back part of the flowers. Is this normal? It has never happened to me before.

    I have another vine in my back yard and it has ants all over it, but no caterpillars. Is there something I can spray on the bugs to keep them off the vines?

    1. Passion vine is the host plant for the Gulf Fritillary butterfly. It can be sprayed with Thuricide to kill the caterpillars if you want to, but the vine will leaf back out and you have saved the butterfly for another generation.

      If ants are on a plant, they are usually after aphids. Insecticidal soap or a sharp stream of water can wash away the aphids and the ants should move on.

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