Sunday, March 11, 2018

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar, Egg and Pupa

The Monarch Butterfly was observed and photographed in my front yard garden nearly daily once I planted a Tropical Milkweed plant. Of the varieties of butterfly-attracting milkweed, I picked the species of Asclepias curassavica because of the pretty and colorful tiny flowers.

Monarch Butterfly on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly on Tropical Milkweed November 8, 2017
This particular Monarch Butterfly arrived in my front yard garden in Leesburg, Florida on November 8, 2017. It made a beeline, so to speak, for my Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, plant. "Other common names include bloodflower or blood flower, cotton bush, hierba de la cucaracha, Mexican butterfly weed, redhead, scarlet milkweed, and wild ipecacuanha." --Asclepias curassavica, Wikipedia

Monarch Butterfly on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly on Tropical Milkweed November 8, 2017
Don't you wonder how the Monarch Butterfly knows there is a Tropical Milkweed plant in somebody's garden? Looking closely at this Monarch, I would say it is a female. I had previously seen Monarch Butterflies flitting through my front yard garden to check out the Mexican Petunias and Pentas.

Monarch Butterfly on Mexican Petunias
Monarch Butterfly on Mexican Petunias August 4, 2017
Researching the butterfly friendly milkweed plant, Asclepias curassavica, I learned that there actually is a classification of butterflies known as the Milkweed Butterfly! I had to take a closer look at my photographs to see if the butterfly I observed and photographed was a true Monarch Butterfly.

Monarch Butterfly on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly on Tropical Milkweed November 8, 2017
"The monarch butterfly or simply monarch (Danaus plexippus) is a milkweed butterfly (subfamily Danainae) in the family Nymphalidae. Other common names depending on region include milkweed, common tiger, wanderer, and black veined brown." --Monarch Butterfly, Wikipedia
Something I have yet to observe is Monarch Butterflies mating! I do believe, without knowing it, I had seen a female Monarch laying an eggs on the Tropical Milkweed leaves.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar and Egg


Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar and Egg on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed March 7, 2018
It was the week of March 6th, 2018, when I began looking closely at my Tropical Milkweed plant to see if I could find any eggs or caterpillar. While I didn't see eggs or a caterpillar actually on the plant, I did happen to notice a Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on the underside of my front step.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar and Egg on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar and Egg on Tropical Milkweed March 7, 2018
When I saw the Monarch caterpillar, I first noticed a lot of little black ball-like particles on my front step. That was what made me look closer and then see the caterpillar emerging from under the step!

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar and Egg on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar and Egg on Tropical Milkweed March 7, 2018
It was because I spent some time at the Lake County Extension Center's Butterfly House in their Discovery Gardens that I knew I wanted to get the Monarch caterpillar to a safe place to complete its life cycle.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar and Egg on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar and Egg on Tropical Milkweed March 7, 2018
I found a large jar in which I placed a couple of cuttings from the Asclepias curassavica species of Tropical Milkweed. I trimmed from the back of the plant and then trimmed the leaves from the base of the cutting. Upon photographing the caterpillar as it climbed the cutting, that was when I actually observed one small white egg on the leaf. See if you can spot the egg in the above photographs.

Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis


Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis on Tropical Milkweed March 9, 2018
Checking on the Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar the next day, I saw it curled up sort of hidden amongst the leaf cuttings on the bottom of the jar. It was on March 9, 2018, that I actually saw a pupa or chrysalis!

Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis on Tropical Milkweed March 9, 2018
The Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis had been attached high up on the Tropical Milkweed cutting, right below the flowers. Looking closely at the photos of March 9th, you can see a bit of black at the edge of the pupa. At first, I thought the caterpillar wasn't finished with the pupa.

Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis on Tropical Milkweed March 10, 2018
Checking on the Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis on March 10th, as I lifted the limp Tropical Milkweed cutting, the black stuff fell off! Ah, poop perhaps? I had read where that caterpillar poops like crazy ... so I am surmising that it was the final poop left behind, as it became encased in the pupa for the next stage!

Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly Pupa or Chrysalis on Tropical Milkweed March 10, 2018
It was on March 10, 2018, that I found a small, firm twig to attach the Tropical Milkweed cutting with the Monarch Butterfly Pupa to allow it to be suspended and hanging. Very carefully, with surgeon precision, I lifted the cutting and twisted it around the end of the twig. With some black electrical tape, I attached the cutting to the twig.

It is reported that a Monarch Butterfly emerges from the pupa or chrysalis state in two weeks time. I am hopeful that I will be reporting that before the end of March!

UPDATE MARCH 16, 2018


Late this Friday afternoon, I came outside to check on the Monarch pupa I had protected in a vented jar in the shed. Looking closely at the pupa, I saw almost a glittery look to the striping that ran the diameter of the pupa. Then, I noticed what appeared to be a small hole. It seemed I could see inside the pupa and it looked empty! I'm not sure what to make about that, but I will be taking a closer look at it tomorrow!

Monarch Butterfly Dead March 16, 2018
Monarch Butterfly Dead March 16, 2018
Next, I went to the front yard garden to check on the Tropical Milkweed plant to see perchance I might find a caterpillar crawling there or possibly another pupa. I didn't detect either of those, but looking down at the mulch near the plant I saw a dead Monarch Butterfly! This butterfly looks to be a smaller size from the butterfly shown up above as it was on the plant.

Monarch Butterfly Dead March 16, 2018
Monarch Butterfly Dead March 16, 2018
Oh no. I had been watching such a butterfly yesterday afternoon as it was busy on the plant. I wonder if it might be the same butterfly and what caused it to die? I've been seeing many wasps also on that plant and theorized maybe a wasp got it? Looking at its wings, I do see on the right side in the photo that there is a bit of damage. What could have caused that?

Monarch Butterfly Pupa Black
Monarch Butterfly Pupa Black March 27, 2018

Monarch Butterfly Pupa Black

It is well past the 14 days in the pupa stage and now the chrysalis has turned dark black! Googling, I learned there is a condition known as "black death" or nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV).

Monarch Butterfly Pupa Black
Monarch Butterfly Pupa Black March 27, 2018
Researching NPV, you have to be careful about not infecting your caterpillar! In this case, it did appear that the Monarch butterfly caterpillar was not infected. So, knowing that the "black death" includes a foul odor, I will be sniffing out the black pupa and making sure there is no such odor or virus. Update: After watching that pupa for over a month, it seemed to be shriveling or drying up. No butterfly ever emerged.

Another Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar


Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed May 23, 2018
#2 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed May 23, 2018
On May 23, 2018, I discovered another Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on the Tropical Milkweed. I noticed that the flowering stem was broken and hanging there ... the caterpillar had eaten through the stem.

Monarch Butterfly Pupa on White Netting May 26, 2018
Monarch Butterfly Pupa on White Netting May 26, 2018
It was 9:15am on Saturday, May 26, 2018 as I checked on the caterpillar and found a small green pupa attached to the white netting cover! That was fast.

New Monarch Butterfly in 8 Days June 3, 2018
New Monarch Butterfly in 8 Days June 3, 2018
It was near 7am on Sunday, June 3, 2018 when I checked on the pupa to see a new Monarch Butterfly had emerged! That was 8 days after the caterpillar transformed into a pupa. Most impressive!

New Monarch Butterfly in 8 Days Drying Wings June 3, 2018
New Monarch Butterfly in 8 Days Drying Wings June 3, 2018
From the time I first discovered the new Monarch Butterfly, it was about 2.5 hours that it was drying its wings and then preparing for its first flight. It was interesting to see the orange transparent-like liquid dripping from the butterfly.

New Monarch Butterfly in 8 Days Flight Ready June 3, 2018
New Monarch Butterfly in 8 Days Flight Ready June 3, 2018
The very last photo I snapped of the new Monarch Butterfly, before it took flight, showed a slightly off-kilter butterfly. Once it took flight, it flew with a vengeance down my street, to the next street, and then off into the distance. About one hour later, I happened to see the new butterfly along with a bigger Monarch Butterfly in my front yard garden.

TWO MORE CATERPILLARS


June 6, 2018: I now have two more Monarch Butterfly caterpillars that I am nurturing! I just found a teeny little caterpillar quite by accident, after I pulled a large yellow leaf from the Milkweed plant. The caterpillar must have been on that leaf as I looked down at my left hand and saw what looked like a mealworm in the palm of my hand!

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Leaf June 6, 2018
#3 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Leaf June 6, 2018
It was seemingly overnight that the caterpillar started to look more recognizable! It was voracious in its appetite immediately upon rescue. That's the third MB caterpillar above.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Leaf June 6, 2018
#4 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Leaf June 6, 2018
It has been a rainy morning on June 6, 2018. Coming out to the front yard garden to look over the Milkweed plant, it was quite by accident that I noticed this plumper MB caterpillar on a new growth of Milkweed underneath the burgundy penta plant.

#5 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Leaf June 6, 2018
#5 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Leaf June 6, 2018
It was early evening of June 6, 2018. I came out to my front yard garden to shoo a brown bunny away from the Russian Mammoth sunflowers. Walking by the Tropical Milkweed, my eyes stopped when I notice a Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on the underside of a large leaf near the top of the plant. Bonanza on all the caterpillars lately!!

#5 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Leaf June 6, 2018
#5 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Leaf June 6, 2018
That makes 5 MB caterpillars that I've recently nurtured. At the moment, there are three MB caterpillars ... awaiting PUPA!!

UPDATE JUNE 8, 2008

Would you believe that the Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars [MBCs] are emerging like crazy? Six more MBCs are now being nurtured in a protected environment, awaiting pupa. It was 2 pm when I returned home from a movie and noticed 2 more MBCs on the Milkweed.

#10 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Seed Pod June 8, 2018
#10 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Seed Pod June 8, 2018
In the photo directly above, you can see the tenth MBC that is actually stretched out on a Tropical Milkweed seed pod. I opted to leave that caterpillar be and hope for the best. Within an hour, there was a downpour ... will check and see if the caterpillar is still hanging around.

#11 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Leaf June 8, 2018
#11 Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed Leaf June 8, 2018
In the photo directly above, you see a smallish MBC on a Tropical Milkweed leaf. I am leaving that one be as well and hoping for the best.

Checking on the nine that are in the protected environment, I observed another small MBC crawling on the netting cover ... it seemed a bit tinier than the one left on the Milkweed. Technically, that makes ten MBCs in the protected environment at the moment! And, it appears that one of those is actually relaxing before the pupa stage.

TWO MORE MONARCH BUTTERFLY CATERPILLARS


Two Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars on Tropical Milkweed June 8, 2018
Two Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars on Tropical Milkweed June 8, 2018
It was the afternoon of June 8, 2018 that I happened to notice two pretty good-sized MBCs on the Tropical Milkweed. I am sure one of them is the MBC spotted earlier in the day, listed as #10 above.

Two Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars Eating Tropical Milkweed Seed Pod June 8, 2018
Two Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars Eating Tropical Milkweed Seed Pod June 8, 2018
A little later in the afternoon of June 8, 2018, I saw two MBCs positioned on a seed pod with one on top and one on the bottom. It looked like they were head-butting each other as they were both pulling on the end of the seed pod to eat it. Very interesting to observe this activity! If you look closely, in the upper right background, you can see a teeny MBC.

INVASION OF THE MBC!

It seemed like maybe a week later and there was a massive invasion of the Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars! I mean, they literally took the Tropical Milkweed plant to the ground ... leaving it looking like a barren bamboo plant, the likes of something I had never seen. In this first invasion, there easily had to be 50 caterpillars if not more at one time munching on the plant!

Last of the Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars on the Barren Tropical Milkweed
Last of the Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars on the Barren Tropical Milkweed June 15, 2018
June 15th and 16th were very active days for those MBCs! I had to watch where I was walking in the yard, carport and driveway as the caterpillars were on the roam! I even found a couple on the yellow Mandevilla plant!

Monarch Butterfly Pupa under Flower Box June 16, 2018
At the same time that I was finding all those pupa in and around the yard, there were several being nurtured in the shed. And, some new butterflies were emerging from the nurtured pupa!

3 New Monarch Butterflies and 2 Pupa and 1 MBC
3 New Monarch Butterflies and 2 Pupa and 1 MBC June 16, 2018
It was this first set of 3 new Monarch Butterflies which showed how tough Mother Nature could be. The one butterfly had a seriously deformed wing that was crumpled. I "worked" with that butterfly for a couple of days to nurture it and see that it could actually fly and be a happy butterfly. Those were some tough days!!

4 Monarch Butterfly Pupas under the Window A/C
4 Monarch Butterfly Pupas under the Window A/C June 17, 2018
By June 17th and 18th, I was noticing Monarch Butterfly Pupas in a variety of places. There were 4 under the window A/C, one under the window flowerbox, one under the side of the step to the Florida Room, one under the red chair, one attached to the overhead carport beam, 6 or more in the fountain grass.

New Monarch Butterfly on my Forearm
New Monarch Butterfly on my Forearm June 24, 2018
As each new Monarch Butterfly emerged, I was there to observe and be sure no predatory critter interfered. Despite all my good intentions, I still got to see quite a few Monarchs that either fell from their pupas, got stuck in their pupas, or couldn't get their wings to fully hang and dry.

Dead New Monarch Butterflies
Dead New Monarch Butterflies June 25, 2018
I saw three of the new Monarchs who had deformed wings, making them resemble more of a dragonfly. A new Monarch was found dead in the front yard garden missing its body! All in all, it was very tough to observe these beautiful creatures that had a failure to launch.

SECOND INVASION OF THE MBC!

It was maybe a week or so and I was recovering from that first invasion. I happened to be walking past the recovering Tropical Milkweed plant and stopped dead in my tracks. "Oh no!!! It's another invasion." I thought. Holy Smokes, but the plant just got back a few leaves and again it was covered with MBCs.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars on Tropical Milkweed July 5, 2018
I knew with this second invasion that I was going to try and stay detached from the whole process.

Monarch Butterfly Pupa by Step
Monarch Butterfly Pupa by Step July 9, 2018
By July 9th, I was finding a pupa here and there. I noticed two pupas in the fountain grass which was concerning as those previous new butterflies emerging from the fountain grass were having wing issues. Maybe only one half of those survived.

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