This spring we decided to do our bit towards helping Monarch butterflies. So we bought a milkweed plant and put it in our backyard. Nothing happened for ages but then, in October, we noticed a Monarch on the milkweed. A couple of weeks later we had a caterpillar, which first turned into a chrysalis (below) and then into a butterfly.
Well, that was easy, we thought.
November brought visits by a couple more Monarchs and suddenly we had 9 caterpillars. It didn't take them long to munch through all the leaves on our milkweed and so I rushed out and bought a second plant. A few days later both plants were virtually bare, while our caterpillar population had grown to 14. I rushed out again and bought two more milkweeds.
By now we were really excited at the prospect of helping 14 more Monarchs into the world.
Unfortunately, we then had several cold spells in a row. A couple of caterpillars died and rotted away. Seven more disappeared, presumably eaten by anoles or bugs. Only seven made it to the chrysalis stage, including one which opted to hang out on our prickly pear.
Later, one of the butterflies emerged from its chrysalis but wasn't able to unfold its wings.
By early January none of the other chrysalises had produced a butterfly. So in the end 15 caterpillars - and four milkweed plants - had produced just one Monarch butterfly. We were very disappointed.
However, we felt slightly better on Monday this week, after Dee noticed that a butterfly had emerged from the chrysalis attached to the prickly pair. The Monarch spent a while on the ground, unfolding its wings, and then off it went.