Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Raising Monarchs

It all started in late July when I spotted tiny Monarch caterpillars 
on common milkweed plants. It was an exciting find because 
I have been looking every summer and I have never been able to find them. Not one. 
In mid August I spotted my first egg and then another and another. 
My eyes were definitely open to seeing and I saw them everywhere! 
So, I decided to raise them. 

I started with six eggs which all hatched, however one did not make it past four days.
For two weeks I fed five caterpillars fresh common milkweed leaves daily.
They ate a lot, pooped a lot of frass and molted five times in that two week period. 
They grew from 1/8 inch to 3 inches! They were fat cats!

One by one they stopped eating, climbed to the top of my enclosure and made a little silk 
from which to hang. Eventually they hung upside down in a J position, 
a sign that they were starting to pupate and enter the third stage of life as a chrysalis. 
Finally, they molted one last time. Wiggling out of their old skin. 

 Over a period of several hours the shape transfomed into a pupa or chrysalis. 
If you look closely, the pupa is imprinted with the future butterfly wings. 
This phase was extraordinary to watch and I posted a video to my Facebook page. 

These tiny jade jewels are flecked with gold. Such a thing of beauty. 
We are waiting and watching now. Perhaps in seven to ten days we will have butterflies. 
Stay tuned for an update!
If you are interested in helping to save the Monarchs,
either by planting milkweed and nectar plants,
or raising them next season,


donna baker said...

I did that once with blue and black swallowtail butterflies. It was cold outside but they were in the barn so I thought they could feed on the lemon trees. When they come out of the pupae, feel their wings before they dry. They are quite cold like chemically cold and feel kind of wet.

holly aka golly said...

Donna: Wow, That's interesting! I read that it takes 4 to 5 hours to fully extend their wings and dry out and then they can be released. I'm just hoping that I have healthy butterflies. So far they look good!

Linda Ellett said...

What an exciting and beautiful process to watch up close. Our local fair had caterpillars on display one year and I watched one pupate - I was mesmerized!! It is truly astonishing. Another thing that is amazing is watching polliwogs change into froglets - I did that one year, feeding them spinach from my garden, and one by one we let them go down at the stream next to our property. Nature is truly stunning to watch up close!

Anonymous said...

Great job Golly!!
Von G

holly aka golly said...

Ooh! What fun!

holly aka golly said...

Thanks, Von G!

Sasha said...

I hate caterpillars. Even pictures make me feel queasy and sick. I don't know why. So when these started showing up in my FB feed I felt all sick and quickly scrolled past and yet - they were so beautiful so I kept going back with eyes half closed to peep at them. And I've managed to read this post without feeling too squirmy since they are absolutely beautiful photos. So thanks! I love that I've been able to look at something that (irrationally) makes me so uncomfortable in better detail and learn a little bit of the butterflying process.

holly aka golly said...

Sasha: I'm glad I haven't scared you away entirely. There probably won't be too many caterpillar post this autumn, maybe the occasional woolly bear but just avert your eyes! šŸ˜‰