Monarch Butterflies

July 20, 2016

We started a project back on June 10th. A local Monarch enthusiast, Mary B., came to The O'Hara Commons to show us how to look for monarch butterfly eggs on our resident milkweed. Certainly, we thought, we do not have enough milkweed to attract monarchs. Wrong. We had eggs. Without even seeing the butterflies themselves. So we collected butterfly eggs. Just off of the milkweed in high traffic areas and where we had to mow. 

Then we came to foster some caterpillars. In total, we have been tending to 15 monarchs. And, as the caterpillar grows, it eats a lot. We had plenty of leaves to feed them. They pooped a lot, so there was some terrarium clean up too.

First the egg, then the tiny caterpillar who grows to about 2 inches. They migrate to a place to hang, they make a silk pad and hang in the shape of a 'J'. In about one day they shed their caterpillar skin and they are now a chrysalis. A most beautiful chartreuse color with accents of gold dots and a gold crown. These are said to be 'spiracles', or breathing tubes. 

The next stage, the one we are awaiting, is emergence from the chrysalis. We will keep you updated. Photos follow: Eggs on milkweed, Caterpillars, Chrysalides. All taken in Hamilton, Montana!

UPDATE: On July 19th we had 4 monarchs emerge throughout our Curiosity Camps program (Aquatic Macroinvertebrates). Campers and visitors to The O'Hara Commons were able to experience the joy of releasing monarchs to the great blue sky. July 20th, we have two more monarchs resting on goldenrod as they dry their wings and prepare for their next stage in life. So far, we have had 4 females on 2 males.