We learnt that they eat milkweed as caterpillars and if you open your eyes and look around you see it is growing everywhere. We found a massive patch nearby to our house and spent many hours wandering around just looking, finding caterpillars, butterfly's everywhere- how come we've never noticed these beautiful orange and black things before right here on the road we drive down everyday?) We took some home and had our own caterpillars. They ate and ate and ate, and grew very fat. Meanwhile we noticed more tiny caterpillars appearing, the milkweed we had picked had lots of eggs on it.
Eventually the caterpillars have eaten enough and hang upside down in what is known as the "J" shape, they spin a tiny silken pad to hang from. We noted they stayed in this position for 12hours before they magically shed their skin to reveal the Chrysalis!
The "J" shape ready to pupate. In the 'wild' the Monarch Caterpillar gets off the host plant and pupates elsewhere, but here in our house they have no choice but to hang from the plant they have been eating.
This is a newly formed Chrysalis, you can see the discarded skin below (a black crumpled piece).
After a few minutes a beautiful gold line appears along with some gold dots on the green Chrysalis. It is so beautiful. The Chrysalis hangs for roughly 10 to 14 days and changes occur.
Eventually the Chrysalis turns brownish and black in patches then magically, orange sections are seen as the Chrysalis case turns clear.
Here are my two trusty observers- observing at a very close range!
Not long later, a beautiful Monarch Butterfly emerged.
It hung from the empty Chrysalis for a few hours breathing in deeply to pump up its wings, then to uncrumple and dry them and then slowly take a few practice flaps to test them out.
Finally with a few wonky flaps and flight attempts it flew away. Off to find nectar to eat and milkweed to lay more eggs on after it finds a mate. There is no shortage of milkweed around here. The plan for our yard is a small milkweed patch and lots of colourful flowers to attract the Monarch to our garden. But look a little further at our place and we find things way more exciting than this: Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog, Blue Triangle Butterfly, Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly and another frog yet to be identified.
After our fun with the Monarch's we put the remaining milkweed plants that we had picked back at the patch so that the other tiny caterpillars could live on, the life cycle would never end in our house, because the more milk weed fresh shoots we picked to feed the growing caterpillars, the more new eggs we were bringing back home!
So this discovery led on to a small fascination with butterfly's. Everywhere we went we saw them, we carried our books and were able to identify most. We even found one outside our local bakery, on the smallest Oleander plant with all stages of the Common Crow Butterfly happening (these maybe only a boring black butterfly but the Chrysalis is by far the most beautiful I've seen and we had one hatch here this am).
Further on I investigated what Butterfly's were native to Australia, since Monarch's aren't, but interestingly are listed as potentially vulnerable in our Going, Going, Gone book. And after this, came to find out about the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly which is indeed very vulnerable and is a native butterfly to our very own region with a Recovery Program to boot and the expert Ray Seddon living just kilometres away at the ready to teach us all about them! Which is a whole new story in itself, stay tuned for our adventures with the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly and planting of the vines as they are far more important than the Monarch.Richmond Birdwing Butterfly image from saveourwaterwaysnow