Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week One

Our hatchlings are now around one week old. They are technically "first instars," which means they have not yet molted. According to Monarch Watch, they will go through five instar stages before they pupate.
Over the last week, the little guys have been munching away, as evidenced by some holes in the leaves of the milkweed. When they hatched, they were tiny, translucent things with black heads. Now, a week later, they have clearly visible stripes, which will continue to get more vividly yellow and black as they get older.

You can also see the beginnings of their tentacles at both ends. As the caterpillars get larger, the tentacles will become dramatic, and look like antennae.  In fact, the caterpillars have antennae, but they are extremely small, and located on either side of their mouths. At Archie's Garden, we don't (yet) have the means of photographing anything so small, but there's a good diagram, also at Monarch Watch.

Meanwhile, there has been at least one other adult who has come by to lay additional eggs on the milkweed.

Come visit again soon, and we'll keep updating this page with the latest goings-on from Archie's Garden!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More hatchlings

The milkweed is decorated with eggs, and a few more have hatched. The caterpillars are tiny when they emerge from the eggs -- so small you can barely see them. They'll grow quickly, though!
See a slideshow of the hatchlings.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


It's been a relatively warm week in Archie's Garden, with a few days reaching the mid 70s (~22 degrees C). The flowers are blooming, and the bees are buzzing ... and one of the monarch eggs has hatched!

The caterpillar is still very small. In the picture below, you can see a size comparison with an aphid (look for the aphid lurking in the shadows over on the left side).

Having survived the first hurdle, our little caterpillar will now spend the next couple of weeks eating, eating, taking an occasional break to molt, and eating some more. We'll keep watching, and you can watch the progress. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In The Beginning

It would take over one hundred thousand of them to weigh as much as a chicken egg. You wouldn't notice them if you happened to be walking by. You'd scarcely notice them even if you were looking for them. And yet these little specks on milkweed leaves are each the beginning of an extraordinary story that spans months and long journeys -- because these tiny dots are Monarch Butterfly eggs.

These particular eggs, located in Archie's Garden (in Mar Vista, California), were laid on January 15th, 2011 (see the slideshow). If all goes well, they will hatch in four or five days, and striped caterpillars will emerge. Over the following two weeks, those caterpillars will grow, molt, grow some more, molt again, and so on. If they avoid being eaten by birds or being done in by predatory wasps, they will be ready for the next stage, and they will go through another transformation. They will pupate, and each occupy a shell-like container called a chrysalis. Another ten days will pass, and they will emerge -- butterflies!

This complicated month-long process itself is only half of the story. As butterflies, they may stay in the area, or may go off on hundred-mile migrations.

Come visit us here at Archie's Garden to watch the unfolding of this dramatic story, and learn more about Monarch Butterflies and other insects, organic gardening, plants, and more!