Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly

Most of these pictures are from the brood of caterpillars I raised in March of this year. I released thirteen in our backyard. The fourteenth butterfly fell before it’s wings were dry so I protected it in my butterfly habitat. It lived a week. His name was “ED”.

monarch drinking nectar                     “Ed”ed the butterfly

A female Monarch butterfly drinks nectar from my milkweeds before laying eggs.


The butterfly feels the Milkweed with it’s antennae before laying a egg. Then it touches it’s abdomen to the leaf to release a little egg. Each female monarch can lay 300 to 400 eggs!

small caterpillar

In warm weather it usually takes five days for a Monarch egg to hatch. When they first hatch they are grey with black heads. After a few days it will receive it’s familiar stripes.

edith picture 2

After eating so many leaves the little caterpillar will soon out grow it’s old skin and have to molt. This caterpillar will eat nonstop for two weeks and have to shed it’s skin four times. Most caterpillars increase their weight up to 2,700 times it’s hatchling size.

large caterpillar 1

At the end of two weeks the caterpillar will be two inches long. Now that it has reach its maximum size it will begin to wander in search of a place to make it’s chrysalis. When it has found a suitable place it will use it’s mouth to spin a silk pad to attach it’s chrysalis on.

The caterpillar will stay in it’s chrysalis for eight to fourteen days until it is ready to emerge as a butterfly.

several chrysalises

chrysalis before emerging
Before the butterfly emerges you can see it through the chrysalis. It looks like plastic wrap is covering the butterfly. 


This butterfly just emerged.
butterfly drying wings
opening wings
It’s wings are dry!

best release

I released 13 Monarch butterflies in our backyard. One came back on April 24th to lay eggs on my Milkweeds. Now I get to experience the Monarch life cycle all over again.

If you would like to raise Monarch butterflies all you need is their host plant, Milkweed. I also suggest purchasing a butterfly castle to protect your caterpillars from hungry wasps and other critters. Deforestation from construction has caused the loss of many of the Monarchs laying areas. So planting Milkweeds for Monarchs is important.


  1. wow! this is really interesting!! i found your blog by clicking on the "next blog" tag, and it got my attention, very beautiful! :O)

  2. Elizabeth, This is a great blog! It's educational and will help people understand butterflies and Monarchs. You're wonderful. ~Edith

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