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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Monarchs - From Caterpillar to Butterfly

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, Nicholas came running in the house so excited because he had found a monarch caterpillar on some milkweed by our house.  Shortly after that, he found another one!  We were also pumped because we had raised monarch caterpillars 3 years ago and loved it.  So we were super excited about raising them again.

I've posted a few pictures to my Project 365 blog.  You can see them here, here, here, and here.  :)  In case you are interested.

We've found (and lost) several more caterpillars since that first one.  I think our current count is 16.  Sixteen!!!  How awesome is that?!

We've been eagerly anticipating the arrival of these beauties.  When we came home from the zoo last Monday (July 26), 3 caterpillars were in their chrysalides (had to look that one up :) .  The next day the 4th one formed his chrysalis.  Then on Thursday (July 29) we got to actually watch one forming his chrysalis.  It was cool to watch!

Finally today the long wait has paid off ... our first butterfly emerged!  And by the looks of things, we will have 3 more tomorrow or Saturday.

The one that emerged today was actually a bit of a surprise.  You see, I was out on our porch where the caterpillars are currently staying.  I was cleaning the poop out of one of the containers - the one that has 6 baby caterpillars in it right now.  (Yes, you have to clean the poop out of their containers to prevent disease.  No biggie.)

Anyway, while I was putting the leaves and caterpillars back into the jar, I saw something moving in my peripheral vision.  I looked down to see a butterfly walking along the porch.  He came out from under a dresser that is sitting on my porch (that is there because it needs to be donated but it can't yet, because it is holding the containers for the caterpillars and butterflies).  We can't find his empty chrysalis but we suspect he was hanging under the dresser.  There is a second chrysalis under there also, which must be one of the ones we thought we lost when the wind blew the container over.  The kids found it today.

I coaxed him to climb up on my fingers and knocked on the kitchen window so the kids could join in on my enthusiasm.  They came running out super excited!

I sat outside with the butterfly hanging off my fingers or a flower or a stick or sitting on my leg :) for several hours.  It was a good thing I didn't have any plans for this afternoon.   I let the kids each hold him so I could get pictures.  :)  I finally got tired of holding him and I had to make dinner, so I put him on a flower and went about my business.

Of course, I have photographed the whole amazing process.  I plan to make a photo book with the pictures.  Here are a few for your viewing pleasure ...

They start out as this ... a black, white, and yellow striped caterpillar.  
Well, actually they start out as eggs, but I don't have any of those.  :)

The caterpillars eat milkweed, poop, and sleep for about 2 weeks.  Once they have eaten their fill, they form a "J".  This is a sign that they are ready to form their chrysalis.

This is not a great picture through the container, but this is the caterpillar we caught "in the act" of forming his chrysalis.  See how he shed his skin (it is sticking on the side of him) and he is starting to form  his chrysalis.  You can still see his stripes at this point.  Cool, huh?

This is the caterpillar once he has completely formed his chrysalis.  This particular one is hanging from one of our camp chairs.  Apparently one of the "lost" caterpillars decided to stick around.  We leave our camp chairs folded up on the front porch during the summer since we use them so much.  We discovered this guy last Friday.  This chair has since stayed out under my maple tree.  I check on him every day but no movement yet.

This is one of the chrysalides today.  (I know, not a great picture!)  There are 3 that look like this right now.  Hoping they will emerge tomorrow or Saturday!

And here he is!  Our first Monarch butterfly!  (I don't actually know if these are males or females - it is just easier to refer to it as "he").

Isn't he gorgeous?!

The kids each wanted to hold him.

Nick cracks me up!

He seemed to like me the best.  :)

I never did get him to open his wings completely so I could get a picture.  He did open them a few times, but he closed them too quickly.  But with 15 more caterpillars, I'll have plenty of opportunities!


Laura said...

Kim! This is so cool! how fun!

Rainey said...

Awesome!! I've never seen this in all its stages! So cool!

*K* said...

How cute! We raised them once when I was little, it was so fun, and a great learning experience! And obviously it was awesome since I still remember that after all these years!

Sheri said...

That is so so so so cool!!!

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kathryn said...

My God, Kim! These photos are absolutely gorgeous! The one of the b-fly w/Alex in the background is magazine-worthy, it's so perfect. Have you ever considered submitting some of these? I've got a book of publications that'll accept unsolicited photos if you're interested.