Monarch caterpillars have only one source of food – milkweed. If you learn how to identify milkweed, you will have no problem finding and raising your own Monarch butterflies.
The milkweed plant is shown in the photo on the left. Around here, you might start to see some eggs and larva in June, but you will see an increase in eggs after the plant blossoms. The blossoms on the milkweed in our area are a pinkish-purple color.(Of course when this all happens depends on our weather).
When Monarchs lay their eggs, they do it on the underside of the leaves of the milkweed plant. You will only ever find one or two per leaf. The eggs are very small, approximately 1 mm in diameter.
The photo on the right shows a child pointing to a small egg on the milkweed leaf.
There are other things that could be on the leaf that are not eggs, including small bugs. Here is a close up of the egg with a microscope to give you a better idea of the small shape you are looking for:
The eggs are a milky white to off white color. As the larva is getting ready to emerge from the egg, the egg will turn a light gray color with a black spot. The black spot you are seeing is the head of the larva, the gray the body. Fresh hatchlings or larva eat the egg when they hatch and then begin to feed on the milkweed.
Big chunks of leaves missing might indicate a large caterpillar like this one we found!
After they are an inch long, we can hold them, but be careful! Caterpillars like to eat and poop!
Raising Monarchs is a highly rewarding educational activity. The children will love to assist in finding the eggs and small caterpillars, feeding them and holding them once they have reached at least one inch in length. It is important that you re-release the butterflies after they have emerged to allow the cycle to continue.
For more information on extending your butterfly study please search our archives.
I linked this post up to the Outdoor Play Link Up hosted by: