Monarch Musings


Sandy Creek Park is a certified waystation for Monarch butterflies as they migrate throughout North America. This unique Durham park features milkweed, nectar sources and shelter that help sustain Monarchs throughout their migration. In celebration of the Monarchs, the Durham Monarch Festival will feature music, family friendly activities & food. Experts will be giving talks about Monarch biology, ecology, and conservation and pollinator friendly plants will be available for purchase.


I have been watching a few small patches of milkweed for monarchs. In the past week, I saw as many as 10 caterpillars feeding on the plants. Recently, the numbers have been fewer, but I have located a couple of chrysalides.

Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed Photo: Ann Barnes

This morning, as I was tending the garden located inside this fenced enclosure, I saw a monarch caterpillar attached to the fence in the “J-Shape”. This is characteristic of a caterpillar that is ready to pupate. Butterflies do not spin cocoons; instead, a butterfly caterpillar pupates as a chrysalis. The caterpillar’s skin splits near the head (at the bottom of the “J”) and the pupa works its way out.

Monarch Caterpillar Photo: Ann Barnes

Although I missed some of the beginning, this video shows the process. It happens fairly quickly, especially on a warm day. Apologies for the shaky camera, I was not anticipating having something exciting to film today and didn’t have a tripod.

Once the chrysalis dries, it will resemble this one (below):

Monarch chrysalis Photo: Ann Barnes

Monarch butterflies that emerge in the fall will make a long trip southward to spend the winter in a warmer climate. I hope to see at least one Monarch butterfly emerge in the next 10-14 days.

For more information about Monarchs, please see – great photos of a Monarch’s life cycle