Nature is good at providing moments of wonder, and in Beckley Creek Park, we are getting a front row seat to one of nature’s most wonderous transformations. Stop by the educational garden in the back of the PNC Achievement Center to observe the monarch’s life cycle in real time. The Parklands gardening and educational staff have built an enclosure to provide protection to the monarchs so you can see the transformation before your eyes.
Monarch caterpillars and eggs can only be found on one type of plant—the milkweed. Milkweed is the only host plant for these caterpillars and the only place an adult Monarch will lay her eggs. Our garden staff has intentionally chosen these plantings to provide a perfect environment for our pollinators to thrive.
Monarch’s go through four phases in their lifetime; eggs, caterpillar, pupa, and butterfly. All of these may be seen in our enclosure. As the staff checked on this spot, we found eggs and caterpillars ranging from newly hatched, about one centimeter long, to larger caterpillars almost ready to make their chrysalis. When the caterpillars grow large enough, they usually crawl away from the host plant to a more covered area to make their chrysalis.
So look around the area and you may get lucky! The entire process from egg to adult takes about 4 weeks. When these butterflies emerge from their chrysalises, they will be part of a great migration from Canada to Mexico spanning over four generations.
It’s important to protect these beautiful butterflies because their populations have declined by about 90% in the last two decades. This population decline is largely due to drought, habitat loss and pesticides, so protecting these monarchs and planting more of their host plant is integral to their survival.
Special thanks to our gardeners Karen Mann and Dave Gootee, who took the time to plant and maintain our beautiful educational garden and for helping us build the monarch enclosure! If you want more information check out this blog: https://www.theparklands.org/Blog/397/A-Parklands-Metamorphosis about the monarchs we found at the park last year.
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