Monarchs are circling around my milkweed in Maine at the moment:
Her mission is not find nectar, but to lay eggs. She finds a small young tender milkweed. and grabs the edge of a leaf, curling her abdomen underneath:
If you keep your eye on that particular leaf, and turn it over after she has gone, there is a single tiny white dot, 1mm across, about the size of a pinhead. It is her egg:
I became mesmerized by the intricate geometry of these minuscule beads: it took somewhere around 40 photos to get these shots.
After about 4 days, the caterpillar emerges. This next photo is taken one day after the photo of the egg:
They are very tiny at first, about 2mm, but they eat continuously: this one is already munching away. They shed their skins four times, and after each shedding emerge bigger and fatter. Each of the five stages is called an instar. The one below hatched about 10 days ago, probably a fourth instar, and it’s pretty hefty: use the central spine of the leaf as a gauge of the relative size of the newborn above and this heffalump below:
Monarch caterpillars feed only on milkweed, Asclepius syraica, so I encourage the milkweed on my land, and its sensuous perfume wafts around the edge of my meadow at this time of year. The flowerheads are elegant:
And in closeup they have a lascivious whiff of Georgia O’Keefe:
Here is one of her flower paintings:
Thanks to the Art Gallery of Ontario for this image.