I saw the first-of-the-year Monarch butterfly in Eliza Howell Park on May 24, 2020, a typical time for its arrival.
As is well known, Monarchs need a milkweed species for food for their caterpillars. In anticipation of the coning Monarchs, I had been checking + the site of the earliest patch of Common Milkweed. On May 17, the milkweeds were just inches tall.
Less than a week later, the milkweek leaves were fully open. Female Monarchs lay hundreds of eggs, one at a time, on different milkweed leaves.
On May 26, I watched a Monarch flying over the fields, pausing at different milkweed plants. (I didn’t get a picture that day; this one is from last year.)
I also visited a few milkweed plants. It didn’t take long to find a newly laid Monarach egg, a whitish pinpoint on the underside of the leaf.
If all goes well, the eggs will hatch in 3 – 5 days and the tiny caterpillars will start eating the leaves.
This picture is also from last year.
The caterpillars spend most of their time eating and, in about 10 – 14 days, they will have grown to full size.
I don’t (yet) have an Eliza Howell photo of the next stage of the Monarch’s life, the pupal stage, the 8 – 15 chrysalis days during which the caterpillar develops into the adult butterfly.
The whole process from the deposit of the egg to the emergence of the adult is often completed in less than a month. Many of the Monarchs that will be nectaring on the lovely summer wildflowers in the park are now eggs on milkweed leaves.
Adults (except for those late in the season that migrate to Mexico) usually live only 2 – 5 weeks. In that time, they can visit and pollinate hundreds of flowers and the females can lay hundreds of eggs.
It is a joy to see that the Monarchs are back in EHP and I look forward to their presence (in different generations) over the mext 4 months.