From Milkweed to Monarchs
This morning I spotted a Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on the flowering Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in my backyard. Monarchs are from the Nymphalidae (nym-PHAL-li-dee) family, subfamily Danainae (dah-NAY-i-nee) because their larval host plants are milkweeds.
This Monarch did not have spots along the bottom veins and was identified as female. She laid several eggs on the Swamp Milkweed. Laying one egg at a time, attaching each one with a bit of glue like substance to the Swamp Milkweed leaves. I believe she laid about ten eggs on this stand of Swamp Milkweed. She will lay an average of 100 to 300 in her 2 to 6 week lifespan.
The lifespan of Monarchs seen in the North East varies based on their generation or the time they emerge from their chrysalis as adults. The adults that emerge from September to October will pause to reproduce as they migrate to their overwintering sites in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. These Monarchs will begin reproducing in February and March as they make their journey to the North Eastern breeding sites. Some of the migration generation have been recorded to have a lifespan of 9 months.
Two years ago I started creating a Monarch Waystation. A Monarch Waystation is a space that contains all of the resources to support the entire life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly. I grow milkweeds native to our region and nectar plants that bloom throughout the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Conserving habitat in my front and backyard has been a great learning opportunity. It helps me connect with nature and teach others about preserving habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.