A Good Day for Butterflies...

monarch butterfly wings
Inspired by my aunt, who is a master gardener and a butterfly whisperer, I started planting milkweed in our yard a few years ago to attract monarch butterflies. To watch these butterflies begin as eggs, then caterpillars, into a chrysalis, and emerge as butterflies has been miraculous. It's been heartbreaking, too, as not every caterpillar or butterfly makes survives.

monarch butterfly on hand
Something to know about monarch butterflies is that the caterpillars only eat milkweed. So, if you want to have monarch babies, plant yourself some milkweed. I recommend seeking out a local nursery that doesn't use pesticides. Different varieties of milkweed grow best in different regions of the country, so local is key!

In the Houston area, I've found that our busiest butterfly season is fall! We do get our fair share of monarchs in the spring, as they're making their way north from Mexico. (Can you even imagine seeing THIS in person?!?) You can read more about their migration here.

Anyhoo...I've had quite a few monarch caterpillars this spring. The caterpillars are funny. Once they get ready to make a chrysalis, they scatter. As in, you'll have 10 fat caterpillars one day, and the next day, they're all gone.

Here's a little story about how THIS happened:

monarch butterfly chrysalis
I added a St. Francis statue to my milkweed area of the garden and was thrilled to spy a chrysalis resting there. St. Francis, patron saint of monarch butterflies.

The chrysalises start out green, but as the butterfly gets ready to emerge, it turns clear or black.

monarch butterfly transparent chrysalis about to emerge
See how the chrysalis is transparent, and you can see the wings? (Also, can we just talk about how incredible that GOLD is???) I knew we were close, so I set my phone on a tripod in the yard, hoping to catch the action. I'd read that butterflies usually emerge mid-morning, so I set my phone out at 7:30am to be safe. I checked a few times every hour. And checked, and checked, and checked.

recording monarch butterfly emerging, st. francis statue
In the midday sun, my phone was overheating. I had to make a little canopy for my phone, moving a potted plant over and taping a sheet of paper from it to the phone. And I kept waiting and waiting. [Spoiler: you can see the butterfly emerged, but imagine it's still in the chrysalis.]

Side note: if you want to go cold turkey from looking at your phone all day, stick it on a tripod in your yard. I was missing my Instagram fix.

monarch butterfly drying wings in grass
monarch butterfly drying wings
Finally, I walked out to check AGAIN about 4pm and noticed a butterfly in the grass drying its wings. Then, I looked to the statue, and there was the butterfly I'd been waiting for hanging from the statue drying its wings.

Y'all. I know this sounds crazy, but the one in the grass was positioned to look AT the statue. Look at that photo above! It was almost as if he was waiting on his brother or something. "C'mon man! Dry your wings, and let's fly!"

monarch butterfly on finger
monarch butterfly face
I sat near the one in the grass...and he crawled right over and onto my hand!!! What?!? I held him for a bit and then nudged him back onto a blade of grass. He walked right back over to my hand again!

male monarch butterfly spots
How do I know it was a "he?" Male monarchs have black spots on their wings. See them?

monarch butterfly close up body fuzzy spots
Look at that fuzzy little body!!! So cute!

male monarch butterfly on hand
Anyway, now we were pals, so I walked around the yard, posing with him on my hand. Do you know how hard it is to get an in-focus photo of a butterfly perching on your own hand? Hint: it's not easy.

monarch butterfly walking
I love this one because it looks like he's marching.

monarch butterfly drying wings
monarch butterfly in jasmine
Eventually, they both flew away. Maybe their offspring will visit our yard on the way south to Mexico in the fall ♥ Godspeed, little ones!

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