When can we find monarch catapillars on Milkweed

Asked June 29, 2016, 4:10 PM EDT

One of our summer projects is to teach our two boys, ages 5 and 8, about the life cycle of the monarch. We live in Northernmost portion of Oakland County on 3 acres. We are surrounded by vacant and state land. We have built a multipurpose trail in the back portion that serves as a nature trail, dirt bike and or snowmobile track, etc. This trail boasts tons of Milkweed and other plants native to the area. We want to show the boys how the catapillars start on the milkweed, but don't know when the best time to see this is. I know we missed the early Spring hatch and I am thinking we may have missed 2nd hatch, but I am hoping it isn't too late to catch the July hatch. If you would be so kind as to point us in the right direction or provide some tips we would be so grateful! Thank you so much for your time and what you do!

Oakland County Michigan

3 Responses

It sounds like you have a fine place for Monarch and other insects.

According to Monarch Watch, populations migrated from Mexico are higher than the past 3 years, but still about 1/3 less than long term averages. The monitoring map shows adults arrived in Michigan about mid May to early June. So, keep monitoring your plants-- cool nights can slow the whole process down, and dry weather also will affect them.

Monarchs that will migrate this fall are 'triggered' to do so by day length and condition of milkweed plants, among other factors.

You should be able to observe monarchs in all life stages this summer. Take a look at the various pictures of the life stages, and then monitor your milkweeds for those stages. Remember, the egg is typically on the underside of the leaf but, not always. Eggs only take 4 days or so to mature so you will want to check your plants at least twice a week. Check carefully so as not to shake young caterpillars off their leaf. Carry colorful plant markers or other markers to ID plants that have eggs, so you can check it again. Be careful not to damage the plant or its roots.

Here are some links to resources, some of these you may already have visited:

Monarch Watch website-

Maps tracking sightings--- click on the Maps link-

And, you can report your sightings---

Some pix of egg and larvae on the leaves---scroll down-

Checklist on how to provide water and other support for butterflies---

Good discussion of Monarch life cycle, number of days to maturity, etc. and monitoring programs in the USA---

Types of milkweed for Michigan---

Enjoy your field trips!

Thank you so much for taking the time to get back with me! I really appreciate it and can't wait for the boys to see this. One day I would LOVE to take them to Mexico to see the migration....one day! Lol Thanks again.

You are very welcome. So glad to help. One other tip, if you weren't aware of it yet-- ending your internet search with "site:.edu" will bring up mostly university based sites, which are based on research, not marketing.

For example, "Monarch life cycle site:.edu" will show you many university websites like Cornell and MSU.
Thank you, and enjoy!