Our most common visitors
are Monarchs, Black Swallowtails, Red Admirals,
Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, shown to the right on
Asclepias Tuberosa (butterfly weed), and
Miberts Tortoise Shells. I also have
a pink Asclepias called 'Cinderella',
that the adults seem to prefer for egg
try and include as many varieties as possible
which attract butterflies.
Now your group can have a butterfly
Mary Thorne, the Caterpillar Caregiver.
Mary provides a wonderfully educational
slideshow and display including eggs,
caterpillars and butterflies when
possible. Visit her at www.CaterpillarCaregiver.com.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on
Asclepias Tuberosa (butterfly weed)
Every fall we have a blast raising Monarch caterpillars. We bring one in that is in the last stage of caterpillar growth. We give it milkweed to eat, which it does for a couple of days. Then it wanders around aimlessly for about a day. Finally, it chooses a spot under a stick in the cage,
or on the roof, and stays still. About 24 hours later it hangs
down into the 'J' form, hanging by the back legs. After about 12 hours, it
starts to wiggle...
It only takes about 1 minute, but my sons and I have seen many monarchs shed their caterpillar skin and become
a chrysalis over the years. The beautiful green and gold chrysalis hangs from the branch for 9 days. On the 10th morning, the green
is gone and we can clearly see the black and orange Monarch through a clear chrysalis. About 6 hours later
a butterfly emerges.
Some years we are there at the right moment to see the butterfly emerge. The
kids love to have the new butterfly walk up onto their hand before watching it
fly off into the backyard. It's one of those things that is thrilling no matter
how many times you do it.
If you have the opportunity to do this, especially with children, it's so very easy, and very rewarding.
Monarch Caterpillar eating milkweed
Starting to make the "J"
Caterpillar has become a green and gold chrysalis
Chrysalis has become clear - you can see the monarch colorings through it
Butterfly has emerged! Notice how folded up the wings are at first.
About a half hour later, it's almost unfolded.
You can see the clear chrysalis hanging from the roof here.
We moved the box outside - wings are starting to get firm from fluid
being pumped through them.
At this point you really want to let them do this at their own pace. Since the
wings are most likely not fully open and firm, it's easy to damage them if you
try and "help".
He's getting brave enough to begin to climb out!
He's made it out of the box!
At this point the wings are firm enough that you can usually get them to climb
on your hand.
And off he flies!!!
Attracting butterflies to your garden requires that you attract caterpillars
to your garden. Knowing what the caterpillar for a particular butterfly looks
like is crucial. There are many beautiful butterfly books available that fail to
ever show you what the caterpillar looks like. When attending the Tri-State
Master Gardener conference in Decorah, IA in July of 1994, the entomologist
speaking about butterflies pointed me toward the best book I've seen on the
subject - "The Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths". All illustrations show
both the caterpillar and the butterfly together.
Check out these wonderful web sites devoted to butterflies: