Ontario has a very important stage in the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly. The story starts in Mexico in early spring and it takes several generations of monarchs, each living 6 weeks and heading north to migrate up to Canada. The ones that hatch here though, are the Super Monarchs. They will live 6 months and make the long journey south, almost 5000 kms in one life and overwinter in the oyamel fir forests of Central Mexico.
Monarch eggs are laid only on Milkweed plants. It is their only food source and the poison in the milkweed leaves that does not bother them, makes them toxic to predators. The egg stage lasts about 5 days. The first thing the baby eats is it's egg shell. Then they start on the milkweed.
The baby Monarch Caterpillars eat, grow and get some stripes. They eat for 2 weeks straight, going through 5 instars or growth stages with molts. In this time, they increase in weight 2000 times! The baby and biggy in the very top picture are 14 days apart in age!
When they have eaten enough, they spin a web to attach their bottom to the ceiling. Then they hang in a J for a day and wait. Then their last molt begins. Their skin splits open and it is green underneath. They wriggle and wriggle all wrinkled, and then settle in to a smooth green chrysalis with gold speckles, glowing with natures beauty.
They stay in the chrysalis for 11 days or longer. It will go dark and then clear just before they hatch. Their wings are crumpled at first, but they hang to dry and straighten them. After an hour or so, you can take them out, wish them luck, and point them to Mexico.
Male monarchs have scent markers on their wings which are visible black spots. Females do not have this marking.