Rob noticed this caterpillar beginning to form a chrysalis on a shepherd’s crook in the garden. We had seen a large 5th instar crawling around yesterday, a few feet from the milkweed plant. It must have assumed the J position overnight. The wiggling is for real – not the wind! I was curious as to why we’ve only seen two chrysalides after seeing 12-15 caterpillars over the past few weeks. Apparently, the caterpillars and eggs have quite a few spider and ant predators. Due to predation and other environmental factors, only a small number (5-60%) make it through to adulthood. Also, several insects, e.g., large milkweed bugs and tussock moth caterpillars, compete with Monarchs and eat the leaves and flowers. More soon! Judy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrVzf8LTQUA
Dear Monarch neighbors, At last, I finally found a chrysalis on the back of a rocking chair on my porch. I will keep looking and will hopefully find a few more. Here’s some chrysalis information for you to ponder:
The gold spots on the chrysalis are not metallic but reflect light. All danaine (milkweed family) have metallic coloring at least somewhere on their chrysalides (yes, that is the plural of chrysalis) – either silver, copper or gold.
The chrysalis is the pupa stage of the insect. The pupa stage is immobile.
The pupa stage is not cell soup! Many adult features are present as tiny cell clusters even in the egg. The clusters grow and differentiate in the larva, and rearrange and develop further in the pupa. Some muscles do degenerate at the end of the larval stage and are replaced by new muscles that allow movement.
The pupa stage can last 8-15 days under normal summer conditions.
Just before adult monarchs emerge, their black, orange and white wing patterns are visible through the pupa covering. This is not because the pupa becomes transparent; it is because the pigmentation on the scales only develops at the very end of the pupa stage.
Emergence often happens in the morning (though I did see a few emerge in the afternoon in previous years).
Yes, it is sadly a dismal year for monarchs. Experts have seen a decrease of 53% from 2019. The experts at Monarch Joint Venture say:
“While many were predicting a small decrease for the eastern population, this represents a more significant decline than expected. With habitat availability continuing to be a severe limiting factor, and severe weather increasing in frequency and variability, our efforts are critical to restore this population to a sustainable level. Thus, our message remains the same – efforts to create, enhance, and protect habitat for monarchs and pollinators must be scaled up. Each and every person can make a difference for monarchs in some way.”
Hello Monarch buddies! Welcome to August. I am glad Jody finally saw a Monarch. I saw another Monarch butterfly today. The caterpillars, though disappointingly fewer in number than the previous two summers, have been harder to find. Sometimes I try to do a count and find none, and then find 5 a few hours later. I think I have seen about 8 caterpillars in all on my Swamp Milkweed plants, and another 3 on the Common Milkweed. Part of the issue is that the smaller caterpillars don’t do much chewing; logically they are so little that they are eating relative to their body size. So it’s hard to find chewed leaves as a clue to their whereabouts. Once they get bigger though, it’s amazing how much food they require, and plant munching is noticeable.
Take heart; even if your plants do not feed the Monarch population this year, lots of other pollinators are certainly enjoying the nectar from their flowers. Remember that our ultimate goal is to increase the diversity and population of all of our pollinators. Next summer, with another year to grow, your plants will be bigger and stronger and you can try again. If your plants are blooming, make sure you smell the flowers. Lovely and not at all what I expected – reminiscent of… You tell me what you think.
A couple of the very large, fat, well fed 5th instar caterpillars seem to be gone from my plants, which leads me to think they’ve crawled off to form chrysalises. I haven’t found any yet, though last year they appeared in early August in the most unlikely places – along a garden hose, the back of a chair, on a fern. I will keep looking and keep you posted, and will also send some caterpillar pictures tomorrow. Good luck! Judy
Hello from Miller Road.I have no Monarch activity on milkweed – they haven’t blossomed yet. I have seen Monarchs and I believe Yellow SwallowTails flitting among the day lilies in my yard. I keep checking for eggs. Thanks for the great photos and the video – they are very helpful. Be well and stay cool~ M
Amazing Judy! Though I thought I saw 2 last week now I”m not sure as haven’t seen any and can’t find any eggs or caterpillars on milkweed in the fields or in the garden. I look everyday. Still hoping, K
Greetings butterfly saviors, Unfortunately, I have not had a single Monarch. I fear that we will be alive as they become extinct. I would love to be wrong though. Be well all, F
We’ve seen 3 monarchs up on Dusty Ridge in Putney and lots of milkweed (not the swamp one) to check so haven’t found any eggs or caterpillars. G & S
I have seen a couple of monarchs near my house and a lovely small monarch caterpillar, an instar, out on the power line on Deer Run. There are a few around. I am hoping more will show up. Ever hopeful…. Lots of milkweed all three kinds. I will keep looking. Seems like they were later than this last year.
Yes — my map and log from last year (of 50+ individual caterpillars and chrysalises) got going seriously in mid-August and went through the first week in October. Have seen 3-4 monarchs around but just passing through.
Yes Yes I saw one in my beautiful lilies and daylilies.
Hello Butterfly friends, I have been in the lower peninsula of Michigan for 6 days near Lake Mi. I have seen at least 20 monarchs and one caterpillar! I hope they’ll make it to Vt. sometime too. F
Hi All – I just saw a Monarch on my lavender Butterfly bush. Will go look to see if there are any more. J
Dear Monarch friends and neighbors, I think the heat is speeding up caterpillar activity. I have briefly checked the progress of Monarch eggs over the past few days (Last week I found only 21 total on 6 plants). This evening, I found 3 caterpillars – 1 -3rd instar and 2- 4th instar. I have a feeling there are more out there, and will take a closer look and record my results tomorrow when it’s not as hot. In any case, I have observed a big drop in Monarch butterfly numbers over the previous two years. Hopefully you’ve seen some and found some eggs. Let us know what’s going on in your garden! Judy
Hello Monarch Friends, Thank you Judy for the information. I saw our first two yesterday play around the garden-that orange was so brilliant. I looked under many a field grown milk weed today for that white dot/pin head egg but didn’t see any but I’m glad to know what I am looking for. Report on the Swamp Milkweed: 5 plants planted in 2019 and 5 in 2020. The first one from last year is about to flower and all others are growing well.
So looking forward to hearing your Monarch news. K and S
Dear Monarch friends, Several days ago, I sent you a photo of the lone Monarch butterfly gracing my garden. I guess all you need is one female looking for a good place to lay an egg! I have scoured my plants and have found a few eggs. It’s exciting nonetheless. As you can see, the egg is about the size of a pinhead, and protrudes conically from the underside of the leaf. Take a look to see if you find any eggs. It should hatch into the first instar 3-8 days after being laid. Some interesting facts:
After Monarch butterflies mate, sperm are stored in the female until released to fertilize eggs, which may occur weeks or even months after mating. Fertilization occurs just before an egg is to be laid.
Research shows that flavonol glycosides in the milkweed stimulate egg laying. Having milkweed around actually speeds up egg development.
Females lay one egg at a time, but can lay many in a single day.
I am headed out before the rain starts to see if I can find more eggs. Good luck! Judy
Dear Monarch Neighbors, Have you seen any Monarch butterflies yet? My Swamp Milkweed plants are tall, sturdy and ready to flower, but so far no Monarch butterflies have visited my hilltop garden.
Stewart McDermet sent me the link to the Forests for Monarchs project, which is tracking habitat. They’re doing great work! Forests for Monarchs
When the butterflies arrive, start counting and recording the number of adults you see. Then start looking for eggs and, before too long, larvae. The eggs are hard to see so that’s when your magnifying glass will come in handy. Rob and I created a spreadsheet I plan to use for larvae data collection (see attached). Feel free to use it or create your own. Once I have some material to work with, i.e. butterflies, I will record and send video #3.
Dear Dummerston Monarch friends, Like you, I am waiting patiently for the Monarchs to return. I am hoping that will happen within the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I am spending way too much time watering, while also enjoying the late spring/early summer blossoms in my garden and in the fields. How is your swamp milkweed plant doing?
Attached is the next video installment. I tried to cram in a lot of information about migration but there isn’t much to look at yet. Hopefully, when I record my next video, there will be less of my talking head and instead we will be looking at beautiful butterflies and perhaps some eggs. A few juicy facts I learned while preparing for this video:
An adult Monarch weighs about as much as a paperclip.
When Monarchs leave their winter roosting sites in Central Mexico in March, it will take three to four generations before they make it to VT. Each full life cycle/generation takes about a month.
One factor contributing to the demise of Monarch populations is the invasive plant swallow-wort. Adults will lay eggs on this plant but caterpillars can’t develop, thus breaking the cycle.
If you would like to use this email group to send pictures, ask questions and provide information, I encourage you to do so. Don’t forget to reply to all.
Mary Ellen Copeland reminded me of another great Monarch website: Journey North. Looking forward to hearing from you! Judy