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A Day in the Life of a Butterfly Egg

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A monarch egg
Can you tell it is ready to hatch?

Mother monarchs abandon their eggs the instant they're laid. (And the fathers are long gone. A female monarch can lay eggs her whole life after a single mating.) If you were a butterfly egg, your mother could not afford the time to raise you. You would be one of the several hundred siblings she'd try to produce in her short life. So she'd have to move on!

To increase your chances of survival she would try to:

  • Find your host plant, milkweed; (Milkweed is the ONLY food you'd eat when you hatch.)
  • Lay only one egg on the plant, so you'd have it all to yourself;
  • Lay the egg on a young milkweed plant, to provide you with the freshest leaves;
  • Attach the egg with a sticky substance, so you won't fall off the leaf!
  • Lay the egg on the underside of the leaf (so you'd be hidden from the strong sun and a little less visible to predators).

Even though your parents would not be there to protect you, your egg would have a hard shell and even a wax coating to keep you from drying out. You'd be tiny and somewhat camouflaged but still, a nutritious meal for a predator...


Journaling Questions
  • Write a story from the perspective of a young monarch (an egg, caterpillar, or chrysalis). What will you need from your habitat at each stage of your life? What gives you confidence that you can survive on your own? Is there anything you are afraid of?
  • Next, write a short story from the perspective of a mother monarch butterfly. How do you depend on good habitat for the survival of your young? What worries do you have?

Try This! Insect Egg Hunt
Spring is a perfect time to look for insect eggs. Inspect the leaves of as many different plants as you can. See how many insect eggs your class can collect. Bring them to school and inspect their different colors, sizes, and shapes. Pay close attention to milkweed. What other animals do you see? How do they seem to use milkweed?


National Science Education Standards

Life Science
Organisms have basic needs. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met. (K-4)

Plants and animals have life cycles that include being born, developing into adults, reproducing, and eventually dying. The details of this life cycle are different for different organisms. (K-4)


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