Thursday, September 21, 2006

Butterfly Lifecycle

The Nature Center at Rock Creek Park has a small plot planted with milkweed in front of the building. Milkweed is now past its prime and is going to seed. On Sunday, during the DC Audubon field trip, these milkweed plants held monarch butterflies in all stages of their life cycle.

Several caterpillars munched on the leaves.

Underneath at least one leaf was a chrysalis, a cocoon-like structure that holds the pupa as it grows into an adult.

One adult sat still on a leaf, despite the close attention of several observers with cameras.

Finally, here is one ex-monarch. I am not sure how it met its demise, but something has already eaten most of this insect's body.

Monarch butterflies, like many of the birds we saw, are making their annual migration south. Migrating monarchs can be seen high in the sky over the tree canopy. Sometimes they will appear as tiny fluttering specks to the naked eye. At some coastal concentration points, like Point Lookout, migrating monarchs may gather in the hundreds or thousands.