Thursday, September 12, 2013

Butterflies in the garden

Although my Iowa garden is past peak, there are still pretty sights to see. Take a walk with me, as I share photos and information about butterflies in the garden. 

Monarch caterpillars on the butterfly weed. The life cycle of the Monarch is incredible. The cycle begins with a tiny egg, which is generally laid on some type of milkweed.  When it hatches in about 4 days, it is as a tiny caterpillar that eats and grows for about two weeks.  

I've lost track of the butterfly-to-be when it forms a chrysalis. I've heard that the caterpillar moves from the milkweed to a suitable (hidden?) location. It is in the chrysalis for about 10 days before emerging as a beautiful butterly. Its life as a butterfly lasts from 2-6 weeks.

Note the larger caterpillar and smaller one are sharing the same leaf! I thought this made an interesting photo.

Speaking of interesting, did you know that there are 4 generations of Monarchs born each season? It all begins in March/April when the first generation is born and goes through the 4 stages of the life cycle: egg, caterpillar (larva), chyrsalis (pupa), adult butterfly. In May/June the cycle repeats for the 2nd generation. July/August is when the 3rd generation is born. 

In September/October the 4th generation is born - egg, caterpillar, chyrsalis, adult butterfly...but THIS generation does not die. It migrates and lives for 6-8 months in Mexico or Southern California. The Monarchs begin awakening and mating in February/March of the next spring and then lay their eggs. After living for much longer than the other 3 generations, with their purpose met, they finally die. (Information from I encourage you to visit their website for more information and some great photos.

A black swallowtail caterpillar on the parsley. This is one of the earlier instars; it will turn to the green/yellow/black as it gets older and sheds this skin.

An interesting fact about the life cycle of the black swallowtail: caterpillars that pupate earlier in the summer leave the chrysalis as adult butterflies in about ten days. Caterpillars that pupate later in the season may experience diapause, a delay in development which is a physiological state of dormancy used as a means to survive unfavorable environmental conditions, such as temperature extremes, i.e. winter, drought, or reduced food availability. What this means is that these caterpillars rest over the winter in their chrysalis and hatch as adults in the spring time. This is one reason that some environmentalists say you should delay cutting back/cleaning up your garden waste from fall to spring.

The life cycle of the butterfly, and adaptive mechanisms for winter: isn't our God awesome in His creative wisdom, and His love and caring even for these little creatures?

Late Summer/Fall in the garden:

Photos taken two years ago...we haven't had nearly as many butterflies and caterpillars in 2012 and 2013...but there are more this year than last. 

If you want butterflies, it's important to know what plants attract them. For information on gardening for butterflies, click here.

I'll be sharing this with 

Glenda at Tootsie Time for Fertilizer Friday and
Kathy at A Delightsome Life for Home and Garden Thursday


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