Monarch Butterflies

We’ve had a lot of Monarch butterflies swooping around the garden. I know that they winter over in our local park – where they’ve had a tough time, and we’ve been fascinated to go and see them hanging in the trees there, and flitting about on sunny days.

Mum requested swan plants, so I planted four around a barrel outside the sitting room window where she could watch them. I kept a record of progress in sketches.

On Friday, a migrating caterpillar was spotted on the footpath looking for somewhere to pupate.

My observant brother-in-law (he is a scientist, after all) spotted the first pupa under a fern frond the following day – not necessarily made by the same caterpillar, I would imagine.

I thought there would be a wait of several days, but three days later the butterfly emerged.

There have been many caterpillars, but the first four plants are now sticks, as are the four newer plants. I have just planted four more behind the barrel. My sister and brother-in-law have covered their swan plant to let it recover before more eggs are laid. It is woody-stemmed and becoming a shrub. An assistant at the garden centre told me that a friend of hers in the North Island has a swan plant which is as big as a tree. I worry that my efforts to plant more swan plants have simply encouraged more monarchs to lay eggs only for the caterpillars to die for lack of leaves.

I was first made aware of the plight of Monarchs by Barbara Kingsolver’s book. Protectors of monarchs have run into dire trouble in Mexico lately.

Here you can look at their life cycle and detailed information about these amazing insects.