The Monarch drifted by in his bright sunrise colors. He landed on a blade of grass and gently beat his wings. A passing motorcycle startled us both. He flew to the daisy fleabane flowers further away.
It was the first Sunday in July and I was standing by the Great St. Johnswort flowers waiting and hoping for the return of the indigo bunting. The butterfly was my first Monarch sighting of the year! I saw another one fluttering in the flowers in a different part of the garden later in the morning and two more the following Wednesday.
Yesterday, I read about the Monarch butterfly life cycle on the web site of the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab. This beautiful butterfly is most likely a member of the first generation of the summer Monarchs. He could have started his life on a plant here or further south. There were decent sized milkweed plants in this area by the end of May. According to the information on the web site, it takes anywhere from 20 to 37 days for a Monarch to go from a newly laid egg to a larva to a pupa to an adult. The summer Monarch generations live for 2 to 5 weeks. In that time, the female Monarch lays about 700 eggs. The final generation lives up to 9 months. They are the ones who make the fall journey thousands of miles to the over-wintering spots in Mexico and California and then return again in the spring.
I haven’t seen a Monarch caterpillar yet. Now that I know they have returned, I will give the milkweed plants in view a closer inspection.
A male Monarch butterfly in the garden at Jester Park, Iowa, July 2, 2016.
Take care and thanks for reading.