Steve Dargonne and Carol Cox have turned their Lanzarote garden into a butterfly reserve for the large and beautiful Monarch butterfly, an American species that has also made its home on the Canaries. Here’s their story.
A couple of years ago we were given some seeds for some butterfly-loving plants and were very fortunate to attract the beautiful Monarch butterflies to our garden. The caterpillars ate all the plants and some of them successfully metamorphosed into chrysalides on the trunks of our palm trees. We were fortunate enough to see some of the new butterflies, shortly after they emerged from their chrysalides, hanging whilst their wings dried. However we were disappointed to have missed seeing any of the caterpillars becoming a chrysalis or any of the butterflies actually emerging from their chrysalis.
None of our plants regrew, but we managed to get our hands on some more seeds and planted out the small plants earlier this year. We soon began to see adult Monarch butterflies in the garden and before long there were caterpillars on our plants. Worried that the plants weren’t big enough to sustain all the rapidly-growing caterpillars, we managed to buy a larger plant to provide more food and also in the hope that it would have time to flower and set seed before being devoured.
We saw many caterpillars leaving the plants in search of somewhere to form a chrysalis but, strangely, all disappeared. Fortunately, a few weeks later, two large caterpillars left the bigger plant and one climbed up our French doors as we sat outside and watched. The following morning it had attached itself and was hanging in the shape of a J. We watched it metamorphose into a chrysalis, bright green with gold ring, where it stayed for 12 days. The chrysalis appeared to turn almost black then started to split from the bottom up and a beautiful new butterfly emerged and hung there drying its wings for several hours before flying away.
If you’d like to attract some of these beautiful butterflies to your garden you can buy the only plants that caterpillars can eat in several of the garden centres here in Lanzarote for just a few euros, and soon be enjoying this amazing spectacle. The plant is called Asclepias Curassavica (milkweed, butterfly plant). The plants usually regrow after being eaten by the caterpillars and do produce a lot of seeds from their very pretty orange flowers so it is very easy to fill your garden with them.
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