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!