Jeff and I found this milkweed leaf on a picnic. We noticed a lot of monarchs flying near us and saw a patch of milkweed so we looked underneath some of the leaves. This leaf has 2 monarch butterfly eggs! We brought it home and kept it on a moist paper towel until the eggs hatched.
They hatched! We moved the tiny baby caterpillars outside and put them on a branch we cut from a milkweed in our backyard. We kept them inside a butterfly cage.
Here you can see both our “babies” getting bigger! They love to eat the flowers of the milkweed plant.
Wow! See how they have grown!
Here they are as beautiful green chrysalides. Just like jewels.
They turned dark, so I knew they were ready to emerge!!!
Both butterflies emerged within about an hour of each other. Here’s a close-up of one, just minutes after it came out.
I released them in our garden by putting the cage underneath the milkweed plants. Here is one climbing out to fly away.
Here is the second butterfly resting on a nearby dahlia plant. See the milkweed seeds behind it?
The very next day, the monarch butterflies flew back into our yard and I saw them laying eggs on this milkweed plant.
Look what I found! A teeny tiny newborn monarch caterpillar. I can’t believe I spotted it! I found it by the telltale tiny hole it makes in the leaf when it first hatches.
Look closely. Can you find the three baby caterpillars? Each is about one inch long now.
Now the caterpillars are getting big! I’ve counted 11 on 4 different milkweed plants. They’re eating like crazy, stripping the leaves off the plants as fast as they can chew.
Here’s a big guy that just molted. See his old skin just behind him on the leaf? And also notice the yellow aphids. Guess what we’ve found eating all these aphids? Ladybugs!
Can you see the red and black bug near the flowers of the milkweed? That’s a ladybug larva eager to eat all the yellow aphids on our milkweed!
And here’s a ladybug that just molted. It was a larva not too long ago! Note how it’s orange and the spots haven’t appeared yet. It will turn red soon enough and get its spots as soon as its shell hardens.
And look how big and fat this caterpillar is getting! He’s the biggest one of all. He’s eating the whole plant bare. I’m going to keep my eye on this guy to hopefully watch him when he decides to leave the milkweed and look for a place to turn into a chrysalis.