Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed, and caterpillars only eat milkweed. But humans don’t seem to like milkweed very much and are cutting it down for various reasons. Sometimes humans cut down milkweed in order to build houses, buildings and streets. Sometimes the milkweed is cut down when trees are removed to harvest the wood. In recent years there have been a lot of wildfires that have destroyed a lot of milkweed. Humans cut milkweed down in their own yards because it doesn’t smell very good or they think it is a weed. But these humans don’t realize that monarch butterflies need the milkweed in order to survive, and the monarch butterfly population is dwindling. When adult monarch butterflies migrate from their overwintering grounds in spring, the females begin a search for a suitable place to lay their eggs.
Stage 1: Egg
Stage 2: Caterpillar (larva)
As the monarch sheds its exoskeleton for the final time as a caterpillar, it forms a chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar begins its transformation into a butterfly. The first few hours of the chrysalis (pupa) stage is delicate, as the exoskeleton is soft and weak. Stage 4: Butterfly After 8-10 days, you’ll see the monarch wing colors and patterns quite clearly. This is when the monarch is ready to emerge from the chrysalis. The monarch pushes its way out, and grabs hold of the exoskeleton. At first the monarch looks unbalanced, with a huge abdomen and tiny, folded wings. Within minutes the wings expand to their full size. The butterfly waits about an hour or so to dry its wings and prepare for flight.
You can get involved with Citizen Science by recording your sightings of Monarchs and even by reporting the planting of milkweed. Journey North makes this as easy as a couple of clicks to add your data. You can also view data that other citizens have added. Your own family can easily get involved with Citizen Science in which amateur scientists and citizens record and report their sightings and contribute as citizens to scientific research.