We’ve been seeing Monarchs quite frequently in the backyard, and have often seen 2-4 at the same time. According to a recent survey by the Lexington Chapter of Wild Ones, others in this area are also seeing them.
In addition to adult butterflies, 13 of the 50 survey respondents have also found eggs and caterpillars on their milkweed plants. Butterfly eggs are quite small and are usually on the underside of leaves. The easiest way to find them is to see a butterfly laying an egg as I did in the spring of 2006. Note the tiny egg on the tip of the monarch’s abdomen as well as the egg on a leaf in the background.
It’s also challenging to find caterpillars. They start out very, very tiny. This one had just emerged from its egg shell and is eating the shell – probably for nutrition and possibly to hide evidence of its presence.
Caterpillars are very good at hiding, especially during the day. And, both eggs and caterpillars often mysteriously disappear. Butterfly eggs are tasty morsels for a number of insects. Monarch caterpillars are poisonous to birds or any animals with a backbone, but not to spiders, wasps and other insects.
A female Monarch often lays 100 or more eggs – only on milkweeds. However on average, only one will survive to become a butterfly. Thanks goodness some of them do, like this one on Mistflower (Eupatorium coelestinum).
I hope you are seeing some adult Monarchs. If you are a real detective, you might even find some eggs or caterpillars. As usual, I’m interested to hear what you see.