Watching a butterfly float in a breeze and hover over flowers is a favorite pastime for all ages. How long has it been since you walked out in nature to be present with the birds, bees, and butterflies? Let us entice you to take time to smell the flowers and watch the pollinators in action. Learn a bit about the life of a monarch butterfly.

Monarch Egg

Monarch Egg

Monarch Caterpillars

Monarch Caterpillars

A monarch starts out in a tiny cream-colored egg attached to the bottom of a milkweed leaf by its mother. Asclepias, or milkweed, is the only plant a Monarch caterpillar will eat so make sure to have some available for them if you’d like to watch a metamorphosis. After 3-12 days, a tiny caterpillar hatches from the egg. With a voracious appetite, this black, yellow and cream striped caterpillar plumps
up to two inches in length in two weeks!

Monarch Chrysalis

Monarch chrysalis (right) & caterpillar in its characteristic “j” shape (left). 

Monarch on Milkweed

Adult Monarch butterfly on Milkweed enjoying the flower nectar.

Through this phase, in order to keep growing, the caterpillar molts its old skin and forms a new one. It stops taking food in 5 different times while molting, then eats again, always and only Asclepias leaves. Hanging from a leaf and shedding its outer skin for the last time, the caterpillar forms a chrysalis and stays inside for two weeks. The chrysalis is an enchanting green encasement with flecks of gold where the caterpillar transforms into a beautiful orange and black butterfly.

Emerging from the chrysalis makes the monarch butterfly wet and tired, so it dries its new wings in the sunlight before searching for food. Where does it go? Unlike the caterpillar who only eats milkweed leaves, the adult monarch requires nectar, for it has no teeth for nibbling. Drawn to flowers on the butterfly bush, phlox and bee balm, to name a few, the butterfly dips its tongue-like proboscis
into flowers and sips the nectar.

Each adult monarch butterfly lays about 400-500 eggs in hopes that at least a few will one day go through metamorphosis into adults. Butterflies still around in September will fly to California or Mexico to avoid the cold months. They can fly up to 80 miles a day! Providing flowers in your landscape or container design provides food and a place to rest. In June, they begin migrating north to lay eggs again.

Join us in Aurora on Saturday, August 3 from 9am-5pm for Monarch Madness when we will be celebrating monarchs, bees and all the hard-working pollinators with activities for kids and adults. Full list of talks, activities, and games HERE!

Below are additional resources on Monarchs and pollinators.