• October 30, 2020

GARDENING: Raise Monarch Butterflies in your own backyard - Odessa American: Gardening

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GARDENING: Raise Monarch Butterflies in your own backyard

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Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2020 12:45 am

A lot of people do not realize that Texas has a state insect: the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus). In 1995, a resolution was passed by the Texas State Legislature making the Monarch Butterfly the state insect. You may be spotting monarchs around town as they travel through and swarm on trees and gardens to refuel and rest on their long journey to Mexico.

Most home gardeners can easily raise Monarch Butterflies right in their own backyard. Butterflies taste with their feet, so when the adult butterfly lands on a plant it can determine if the plant is appropriate for its larvae. Once the butterfly determines the host plant, which is milkweed, they lay their eggs. In about 3-5 days the eggs will hatch, and the caterpillar will begin its feast.

The larva of the Monarch Butterfly is a distinctly marked black and yellow banded caterpillar. You need to observe them daily, for they grow quickly. During this stage, the caterpillar will shed its skin several times. The caterpillar will grow to about 2 inches in length.

The next stage (pupae stage) is a beautiful thing to observe. Look around your yard and you will see the Monarch Butterfly’s chrysalis. You will recognize the Monarch chrysalis by its bright, shiny green color and gold speckles.

In about 10 to 12 days, the adult Monarch will emerge as a breathtaking black and orange butterfly. The male Monarch Butterfly may be easily distinguished from the female by noting the two highly visible black spots on the insect’s hind wings and the thinner black webbing within the wings. The female’s webbing is thicker and she has no identifying wing spot as the male does. Adult butterflies feed on nectar, and the Monarch Butterfly will return to the same butterfly weed to feed on its flower.

For more information, call the AgriLife office at 498-4071 in Odessa or at 686-4700 in Midland, email jeanette.castanon@ag.tamu.edu or visit aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu or westtexasgardening.org.

Odessa, TX

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