..and they’re laying eggs!
Monarchs are back in town as of Wednesday last week (May 22) and they are laying eggs already even though common milkweed is barely above ground (see photo at right) and butterflyweed and swamp milkweed aren’t really even showing. Plants may be further ahead further away from the lake but overall, spring has been slow to arrive this year and plants are nowhere near their “normal” size for the end of May.
If you check your milkweed shoots you may see lots of eggs on the young leaves. These leaves will quickly be devoured unless we get some warm days to push the plants along.
Devoured by what, you ask? By the larvae (caterpillars) that emerge from those eggs. As soon as it hatches, each tiny larvae turns around and eats its egg casing. Then it goes to work eating the leaf it’s on. Over the next 9 to 14 day the little creature will increase its mass by 2,000 times and will undergo five instar stages. Insects must shed their exoskeletons (which do not grow along with the caterpillar) and each new, enlarged version is called an “instar”. To read more about the life of monarch larvae, check out https://journeynorth.org/tm/monarch/LarvaFacts.html
Please watch for eggs and do not pull plants that have popped up in unexpected areas of the garden if there are eggs on them. The mortality rates at this stage are extremely high, due to predators, parasite, disease, and adverse weather. The least we can do is give them a chance by not destroying the plants they are living on.