Monarch Butterflies start their journey to adulthood as a tiny egg usually laid by the female on the underside of a milkweed leaf. The football shaped eggs are only slightly larger than a grain of sugar and milky white in appearance. A female lays only one egg per plant and usually on the upper half of the milkweed plant on young leaves.
In 3-5 days, just before the tiny caterpillar emerges from the egg the egg appears to have a black cap. This black end of the football is actually the newly formed head of the caterpillar inside the egg case. In this egg the 3 black fore legs of the caterpillar are visible at the lower edge of the head in the center of the egg. These eggs are beautifully fluted and serrated in contrast to the eggs of other animals that have a very smooth egg case. Why?
This caterpillar was photographed within minutes of emerging from the egg. The caterpillar immediately begins to eat the egg case and then will begin to eat the tiny hairs on the back side of the leaf in order to get the energy needed to carry on the business of becoming a productive adult.
Photos by Jeff Ormiston.