are recognised globally as an endangered species
In the America's, the winter hibernation locations of Mexico and California are rapidly shrinking due to deforestation,
harsh weather, development and other habitat disruptions. Because monarchs gather only in a few locations, the overall population is at
risk. The biggest threat is climate change.
Our breeding program
Each year Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Garden breeds 1000-2000 monarch butterflies to add to the local population. The monarch
butterflies can be seen in the garden predominately from November to
March each year.
3 - 5 DAYS TO HATCH
Females lay about 300-400 eggs in their lifespan (about 40 per day). They lay eggs on the underside of a milkweed leaf. The eggs
attach with a special glue like substance. As the larva develops, the egg changes in colour. The egg is grey when it is about to hatch and
the black head of the baby caterpillar is visible. Hatching occurs in 3-5 days. They eat their way out of their eggshell, and eat the
shell, which is full of protein.
LARVA STAGE (CATERPILLAR)
11 - 18 DAYS TO GROW
The baby caterpillar spends its time eating plants in order to grow. In 11-18 days, the caterpillar grows about 2,700 times its birth
weight. Its main food source is the milkweed species of plants.
The caterpillar moults five times through it growing stage. As it grows, it becomes too big for its skin (exoskeleton) so it moults
(sheds) its skin.
PUPA STAGE (CHRYSALIS)
8 - 14 DAYS FOR METAMORPHOSIS
After the caterpillar is fully grown, it will find a sheltered place to attach itself in an upside down "J" shape. It will
then start the process of metamorphosis, that is, transforming from the caterpillar into the butterfly within the chrysalis, which can
take 8-14 days (depending on temperature). Within the chrysalis, the caterpillar dissolves into a soup-like fluid, then reforms its
cells into the structure of the butterfly.
IMAGO (ADULT) STAGE
The monarch butterfly will emerge hanging upside down from the pupa with an enlarged abdomen that is full of fluid. By hanging
downwards, gravity will help the butterfly pump the fluid from the abdomen into their wings. This allows the wings to expand and dry so
the monarch can use them to fly.
Monarch butterflies typically live 2 to 6 weeks during the summer months, except for the last generation of the season. As
temperatures cool (with winter approaching) the monarch butterfly migrates to its wintering location. This butterfly can live up to 9
months during the winter hibernation period. After it's winter hibernation, it emerges, migrates to it's summer location, and
the incredible cycle starts all over again.
Other interesting facts
FEMALE & MALE
The female have thicker black webbing (veins) within their wings, and darker abdomens that are shaped differently. The males have two
black scent glands (spots) at the centre of the hindwings to attract females. The black spots make identifying males and females
NECTAR PLANTS & SWAN PLANTS
Any garden plants rich in nectar will attract monarch butterflies. However, it is the milkweed family of plants (the Asclepias genus),
and most notably the plant commonly referred to as the Swanplant, that the monarch butterflies use as a host plant for the laying of their
eggs, and also as their food source in their caterpillar form. It is commonly referred to as the Swan Plant, due to the shape of the
plant's seed pod.
WINTER / HIBERNATION MONTHS
Monarch butterflies in New Zealand do not follow the same migration pattern of their northern relatives. They have adapted their
migration behaviour to suit local conditions. When the air temperature drops to 12.8 degrees Celsius - 55 F (around April or May),
monarchs flock together in over-wintering sites. It is assumed there are wintering sites on Waiheke Island. When the temperature warms up,
the wintering butterflies emerge and reproduce.
Pests of the monarch butterfly include the brown soldier bug, praying mantis and wasps. To protect the caterpillar from these pests, at
Sacred bLessing Sanctuary Garden we use two netted nurseries to keep them safe from being eaten.