A perfect Monarch Butterfly male emerged from its chrysalis today and flew off to its butterfly life. Scroll through each picture, below, to read the story as it unfolds.
My particular Monarch season has been quiet to date. Our locality is not frequented by many butterflies at all, so the few that fly into our garden are certainly enjoyed.
Unless I bring Monarch eggs indoors, there would be no caterpillars whatsoever.
This is because Asian paper wasps, ants, earwigs, praying mantis, shield bugs and others, feed on the butterfly eggs as soon as they are laid. In fact we have seen no monarch caterpillars on our outdoor swan plants (milkweed) since 2009, at which time Asian paper wasp numbers increased to epidemic proportions.
Yesterday, however, was a day for hatchlings.
First a female butterfly emerged from her chrysalis. She executed her entrance into her butterfly life quite perfectly and then, when she was ready, flew off to enjoy her butterfly life.
The next hatchlings were three tiny Monarch caterpillars. All three emerged from their eggs within minutes of each other and climbed quickly onto the swan plant (milkweed) leaves I had placed nearby for them.
There's something very cool about newly hatched tiny Monarch caterpillars. At about 2 millimetres long and no fatter than a human hair, they are supremely able. Their first task, having emerged from their tiny egg about the size of a small pin head, is to eat the shell of that egg. It's amazing to observe that process - I have a little video of it HERE.
After that they set off to eat as many swan plant (milkweed) leaves as possible. Five skin changes and a lot of leaves later they will be large enough to form a chrysalis (takes a couple of weeks).
Here are pics I took of yesterday's tiny caterpillars, newly emerged from their eggs.
They are now happily munching on swan plant (milkweed) leaves on plants inside our house and, even in just 24 hours, have noticeably grown in size.
Today I saw this pristine Long-Tailed Blue (lampides boeticus).
I say pristine because it's blue was really blue (in time they fade a little) and there wasn't a single tear/rip on the wings, which were quite perfect.
I get excited at every Long-tailed Blue I see. In New Zealand, LONG-TAILED BLUE (lampides boeticus) is a self-introduced, naturalised butterfly. They prefer open habitat, although they live wherever larval food plants (particularly various species of legumes including gorse) are growing.
Long-tailed Blue butterflies generally lay their eggs individually on unopened flower buds. When they first hatch, caterpillars are pale yellow, but they quickly turn green or pink-brown. The caterpillars burrow into and eat immature flower buds and seeds. They are opportunists and cannibals, and if they run out of food, they will either pupate early, or eat other caterpillars of their own kind. They are 13-16mm when fully grown. The caterpillars either form chrysalises or pupate inside seed pods. If they pupate in a seed pod, they must wait to emerge until the pod bursts—a wait that can last anywhere between 2 weeks to a year.
Males look fairly different from females, sporting mostly blue upper-wings with brown edges as opposed to the female’s predominately brown wings with blue colouring toward their bodies. Both males and females possess eyespots and tails which they move up and down when resting, creating the appearance of a false head which is thought to distract predators. They usually fly fairly high in the air (over 1m above the ground) and have a rapid, jerky flight pattern. Females generally hang out fairly close to their food plants, while males often venture further away.
Range: They are are found in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and various Pacific Islands. In New Zealand, they typically reside across Northland, and can be found on the northern South Island, especially around Nelson.
Other related species : Common Blue, Southern Blue and the endemic Southern Blue (Zizina oxleyi). This occurs on the eastern South Island from North Canterbury south to Central Otago whereas the abundant Common Blue (Zizina labradus) is found along the West Coast, Nelson, Marlborough and throughout the North Island. The caterpillars of both species feed on legumes, especially the introduced clovers and medics, which grow along roadsides and on gravel wasteland and riverbeds.
Click on each picture to see a larger view............
This beautiful visitor came today. Believe it or not, we see only a few Monarch Butterflies in our garden, despite my best endeavours growing nectar flowers to encourage them in.
She flew into our garden and landed on the small branch of a tree, resting there for at least 30 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to rush indoors and grab my camera. She was in very good condition, signifying her young age and the fact of our having had really fine weather these past few weeks.
You would think I would be used to seeing Monarchs in the garden, but I assure you I get very excited at every butterfly I see. They really are quite beautiful.
Here's why we all need to tag Monarchs. It enables precise information of their flight paths and destinations and provides maintenance of a good database of facts. The more we can learn about these amazing butterflies, the better.
Although I am in New Zealand, I have followed the work undertaken by the Cape May Monarch group in the USA, for some years now. They are a special group of volunteers who monitor the number of Monarchs flying through their town. This year their Monarch programme ended later than usual, due to the numbers of butterflies still coming through Cape May at the end of October.
I quote -
" A good number of monarchs arrived into Cape May Point on October 31, with most continuing along on their migrations and leaving the Point on November 1. It's rare to see a big roost of monarchs so late in the fall. Our field season normally ends after October 31, but these monarchs convinced us to continue our census and tagging work for an extra week. Monarch numbers declined quickly once November began, so after today (Nov 8) our extended 2017 field season will be complete."
Even the local newspaper rejoiced at the sight of Monarchs still coming through.
Click on the picture below to see the full article and video.
Congratulations to the endeavours of the volunteers at the Cape May Monarch Programme.
We salute you. 🦋
Today a brand new and perfect Monarch male butterfly left home for the first time.
He had been raised indoors, from an egg and, having grown from tiny to big fat caterpillar over several weeks, made a perfect chrysalis. Our weather has been a little cold, as we wait for Summer to really kick in, so he remained in the chrysalis for 17 days (the usual time is about 10 days when the weather is warm).
Last evening he made a perfect emergence from his chrysalis, puffed out his wings and did all the right butterfly things to be ready to fly.
This morning was sunny, so I placed him outside under the shelter of our veranda roof.
Within 5 minutes of being outside in the open air, he was off.
A perfect takeoff and a perfect flight.
Yesterday two female Monarch Butterflies emerged from their chrysalis's.
I'd had these two since tiny eggs and raised them indoors.
They came out late in the day, however it was raining and cold so I kept them in overnight.
Today we had rain and strong wind all day, and it has been cold, so I kept them indoors still.
At one stage in the afternoon, the wind died down a little so I placed them outside in a sheltered corner of the house, however they didn't fly so I have kept them in overnight again.
So there they are, kind of settled into the caterpillar castle for the night. They're restless and ready to go and have been fluttering a lot, so I've thrown a black cloth over the castle to settle them down, just as you throw a cloth over a budgie's cage.
Tomorrow we're really hoping the sun will shine and they can be on their way to their butterfly life. I'll let you know.
ADDENDUM: Next Morning ☀️
The sun is out, if briefly, however long enough for the two butterflies to fly.
They have gone - off to enjoy their butterfly lives 🦋
Here's a collage photo showing my first 5 caterpillars for the New Zealand summer season.
All are growing well. I initially collected 3 eggs and hatched them in my special 'hatching container'.
When they hatched I put them onto a small branch of milkweed that I had brought into the house and placed in water. When you cut milkweed and put it in water, you need to gently smash the ends of the stems so they're a little split. This allows plenty of water into the stems, otherwise the stems and leaves will just droop and die. When you smash the ends of the stalks and put them in water, they live well for weeks.
To my delight there were already 2 eggs on the leaves I brought inside, which is how I ended up with 5.
We have Monarch eggs on our swanplant (milkweed) in the garden. I've not seen a butterfly, yet there are the eggs.
I don't have many swan plants because, for this season, I was planning to provide lots of nectar flowers for the butterflies rather than going all out raising caterpillars/butterflies.
They are probably 'famous last words' because, the minute I see small caterpillars on our plants, I never can resist bringing them inside under cover.
Asian Paper Wasps are about, but still not in the huge numbers we get when the weather is hotter. They are brutal in their killing of Monarch caterpillars and none survive when they are prowling the plants.
So, mark it down. 1 October 2017 and 'my' Monarch Butterfly season in Opua has begun.
Julie's Butterflies Blog achieved a small mention in the Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon, USA.
Considering that I live in New Zealand, I am indeed honoured and thank them for that.
How wonderful to think that a creature as simple as a Monarch Butterfly can create so much happiness and understanding about nature, to so many people across the world.
Below is a copy of the newspaper article, which I hope you can read.
If you are unable to read it, just click on the picture and it will take you to the online version.
Click HERE to read the Nugget News version, online...................
Opua, New Zealand.
Keen butterfly photographer and raises Monarch Butterflies for release.
" I'm crazy about butterflies and enjoy sharing the beauty and wonder of their transformations."
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Click on the video below, to see
a larger view...