Going to my Grandma’s house as a kid was always one of my favorite things to do. We were always up to something – baking or cooking, gardening, canning, going for walks or tractor rides, exploring the attic and all it’s treasures, watching Wheel of Fortune, or just hanging out – didn’t matter what we were doing, we always had fun. In the summer months and early fall we would walk to the fields behind her house and search for caterpillars on milkweed. The waxy looking caterpillars, striped with black, yellow, and white, some as big as my fingers, some as small as a grain of rice. The milkweed just as interesting as the caterpillars, living up to it’s name when a leaf would get broken.
We’d take a jar or two with us and collect a few caterpillars to bring back home. I remember my family creating a “cage” for them out of a frame from an old wire lamp shade, stretching a stocking over it to keep them contained. The makeshift container was filled with fresh milkweed and hung on our screened porch. My siblings and I, watching the caterpillars, waiting for the moment they found a place to hang upside down in the shape of a J. Then that beautiful jade colored chrysalis with a little golden stripe would appear not long after!
We’d watch the chrysalis turn darker and darker, eventually becoming clear, being able to see the patterned butterfly wing right through. If we were lucky enough we’d get to see the moment when that butterfly finally emerged!
Monarchs still fascinate me – they’re pretty amazing creatures. And I still look for them each year, though, milkweed has been planted outside my art room window, making the search easy 😉
Monarchs are special because they are one of the only migrating insects. Throughout the spring and summer months there are several generations of Monarchs and finally, in the early fall months, the migrating generation of butterflies is born. For our area, this generation makes their way to Mexico where they will spend the winter months inactive before making their way back to repeat the cycle. During the flight to migration, many Monarchs head right through the Delmarva region. You can read more about Monarchs and their life cycle here.
Milkweed is important for Monarchs as it’s the only food source for the caterpillars. Monarchs have had a huge decline in population since the 1990’s – one of the reasons being habitat loss. Check out these sites for getting milkweed seeds and plants for your own yard! Milkweed seeds & Milkweed seeds here