|Common milkweed as |
found in Upstate, NY.
Top picture: milkweed in bloom, July 2013.
Bottom picture: adult plant in the
month of August 2013.
(Click to enlarge)
I have fond memories, as a child, in mid-late August, looking on the undersides of milkweed leaves in search of a fat, striped monarch caterpillar. Many times my sister and I were fortunate on our hunts and came home to mom with stems of dripping, sticky milkweed plant, carefully cradling our caterpillars. Mom would always find an empty critter tank or Mason jar, and in they’d go.
We would check every day to see what “our” caterpillars were doing, and then one day, the change had been made. From a caterpillar, into a strange chrysalis (which is like a cocoon, but specific to a butterfly) that is glossy, bright green, and edged with tiny dots of gold. The caterpillar remains in his or her tiny little capsule for up to 2 weeks, undergoing an amazing change. Then one day, the chrysalis becomes clear, and the changed butterfly is revealed. The emerging and drying process then only takes about an hour, and then the butterfly is off and ready to mate, lay eggs, and start this whole process over again.
The next time you see a monarch butterfly fluttering around a meadow or resting in your garden, think of the journey this tiny, delicate creature has in store for it, and the journey it’s ancestors have already made many times before.
For more information about the monarch butterfly, please visit the NYSDEC’s Watchable Wildlife webpage about monarchs!