Saturday, January 22, 2011

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Lifecycle

A few years back, my wife planted milkweed a around the house in hopes of attracting butterflies. The plants aren't much to look at, and the neighbors probably wonder why we don't take better care of our garden, but they work... they definitely attract butterflies. 

We get monarchs on a regular basis, and I decided to try to follow one from caterpillar to cocoon (I think the correct name is actually chrysalis) to butterfly. We're in S. CA, and I don't think we are on any regular migration route for monarchs, but somehow they manage to find us... very cool!

Photo taken 12/26/10 @ 2:07 PM
Monarch caterpillar on Milkweed plant - they are voracious eaters
and will strip the plant of all leaves

Another Monarch caterpillar (not the same as above)

Photo taken 1/1/11 @ 2:49 PM
Sorry - technical difficulties! Turn your head 90 degrees
to the left.  Monarch caterpillar has attached himself to
the siding on the front of the house (hanging down, not sideways!)

Photo taken 1/4/11 @ 3:02 PM
Caterpillar has morphed into a chrysalis - 3 days old

Photo taken 1/9/11 @ 2:52 PM
8-day old Monarch chrysalis; has turned a darker green and
the gold band is now curved; chrysalis has more angular shape.

Photo taken 1/12/11 @ 3:00 PM
Sorry - turn your head again... 11-day old Monarch chrysalis
In the above picture, I think you can actually see the butterfly colors through the thin wall of the chrysalis. The butterfly emerges very soon after the chrysalis turns dark.

Photo taken 1/22/11 @ 2:53 PM
I promise... last time you will need to turn your head 90 degrees
to the left!! Monarch has pushed it's way out of the chrysalis.
The above photo is just the empty shell of the chrysalis.  The Monarch butterfly has emerged 21 days after I first noticed the caterpillar had attached itself to the siding on the front of the house.

Newly emerged Monarch on Milkweed plant... but this is not the same
butterfly that emerged from the above chrysalis.  Note the folded wings,
so we know he has just emerged!

Photo taken 1/22/11 @ 2:52 PM
Here's the star of the show... "newborn" Monty the Monarch 
 has just broken out of his chrysalis. Doesn't appear he can fly yet.

Photo taken 1/22/11 @ 4:59 PM
Monty the Monarch... just a couple hours old. Not flying yet, but starting to open and close his wings in preparation for first flight!

If you want to learn more, there is a good review on Wikipedia: (


  1. these pics are incredible...your blog is GREAT! runs in the family from what I've seen of lap dog knits...I've never been a desert person before but your blog has changed long as it's under 80 cream, anybody?

  2. These are just breathtaking! I love seeing it thru the stages! Superb!

  3. Loved the photo sequences. You have done a good job.