Last year our passionflower plants attracted numerous egg-laying Gulf Fritillary butterflies. The resulting caterpillars proceeded to eat literally every single leaf on the plants. (BTW, the plants came back better than ever a little while later.) Then we had chrysalises hanging from our outside walls and window ledges and from parts of our deck roof. By the time they had hatched out, our little yard had seen the birth of around 100 butterflies.
Several Gulf Fritillaries visited us again this year but they didn't lay any eggs. This doesn't mean we haven't seen any butterfly reproduction activity, though. On a spring visit to the Audubon site in High Island we bought a milkweed plant, thinking this might attract Monarch butterflies. Sure enough Monarchs have been laying eggs on the plant. A couple of weeks ago, we were thrilled to see a chrysalis hanging from a leaf.
Then our first new Monarch emerged. It hung from the chrysalis casing for a couple of hours until blood had fully inflated its wings and it could fly off.
Ten days ago we noticed that eight other Monarch caterpillars were munching their way around the plant and had almost devoured all its leaves.
Not wanting the caterpillars to run out of food, we rushed over to the Arbor Gate nursery in Tomball and bought another milkweed.
Yesterday we noticed that almost all the leaves had disappeared from the second plant, which was now at least hosting 14 Monarch caterpillars. The caterpillars range in length from less than 0.25 inch to over 2.5 inches.
One is hanging from the rim of a pot, preparing to change into a chrysalis. Meanwhile other caterpillars crawl across it as they wander about looking for fresh leaves.
A couple have already changed into chrysalises. This one has changed from green to brown, which should mean the butterfly is almost ready to emerge.
Later today I'm heading back up to Arbor Gate. I think I'll buy two more plants on this visit - just in case!