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We've featured queen butterfly caterpillars before, but each time we observe them, we learn something new.

How many caterpillars do you see on this young rush milkweed plant? Where are they on the plant and what are they doing?

We've noticed queen caterpillars often feed on the unopened flower buds. Those are the parts that disappear first.

This photograph has a few extra features. Let's look more closely.

What's that shiny white bump at the base of the bud on the top of the stem?

That is a hatched queen butterfly egg. Bonus points if you can find the shed exoskeleton from a previous molt.

The caterpillar in the lower middle of the first photograph of this post has finished off the flower buds. What does it have to eat?

What is the caterpillar doing?

It is crawling out to the tip of what serves as leaves on a rush milkweed.

Now it begins to eat. Any guesses why it might start at the tip?

It doesn't take long. By the time I've taken a few more photographs, the "leaf" is gone.

If you'd like to see the rest of the life cycle, try the queen butterfly emerges post.

Did anyone spot something unusual in the caterpillar photos last week? No?

butterfly egg

Does this help? I have circled a butterfly egg on the underside of the milkweed flower bud. It is probably a queen butterfly egg, although it might also be a monarch. Both types have been visiting the plant.

In fact, the queens and monarchs were having what seemed to be aerial "battles" over the rush milkweed plant. One butterfly would be resting on the plant and another would fly nearby. The butterfly on the plant would fly up to meet the interloper and they would flutter around each other. Shortly one, usually the visitor, would fly off quickly. I had read that butterflies can be territorial, but I hadn't seen it in action before.

Speaking of butterfly territory, I had the opportunity to visit the Tucson Botanical Gardens last weekend. The garden has an exhibit they call Butterfly Magic.

tucson-butterfly-magic-1

This particular exhibit is not large, but has a number of different species of butterflies.

tucson-botanical-magic-2

The longer I looked, the more different kinds I saw.

butterfly-on-foot

Even on my shoe.

butterfly-101

The flowers were not shabby either.

Have you been to a butterfly exhibit? Where is your favorite?

 

4

The queen butterflies are visiting our desert milkweed plants again.

The female queens are laying eggs on the flower buds, which are apparently a favorite food of the caterpillars.

The eggs are often laid in pairs.

Today they've started to turn dark. Does that mean they are going bad?

No, it means the eggs are going to hatch soon...

...into one of these caterpillars, which will turn...

...into one of these beauties!

For photographs of a queen butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, check this previous post.