Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monarch Pupa - Day 2

Our monarch pupa is fully formed and will remain in this state for 10-14 days before the butterfly emerges. The outer surface has hardened and is bright green with gold spots. It is beautiful! I read that at this point, the pupa can be removed and moved to a different location if needed but we will try to keep our milkweed alive long enough so that we can keep the pupa in the same spot.
Interesting facts about the pupa stage:
1. During the pupal stage, a butterfly will make a chyrsalis and a moth will spin a cocoon.
2. What does it look like inside the pupa? Initially, there is a bright green liquid called hemolymph This is the blood of the organism. As the adult develops, the hemolymph no longer flows throughout the pupa. The shape of the wings can be seen when the pupa is still green and when the adult is ready to emerge, the black and orange wings can be seen through the pupa. After the adult emerges, the empty pupa is brittle and opaque.
3. The function of the gold spots isn't clear but is most likely related to distribution or formation of wing coloration. It also might have to do with defense - warning coloration or camouflage. A group of researchers in Germany did a careful study of the properties of these spots. They are not metallic (so they aren't really gold), but the cells reflect light like metals do, giving them the appearance of being metallic.
4. The hard outside layer of the chrysalis is called the cuticle. Apparently there is a way to determine the sex of the pupa from a line that is present on the female cuticle and absent on the male. But it can only be seen with a magnifying glass and I couldn't find any pictures.
5. It is unusual for the caterpillar to pupate on the milkweed plant. Apparently they usually find a different location.
Information comes from www.monarchlab.org
Now we wait and watch!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monarch Pupa

So we have been doing this most of the day...
The caterpillar remained in the "J" with very little movement

About 2:15 pm the caterpillar elongated and started to shed its skin for last time - turning into the pupa. We saw it! Cate and I watched the whole thing! It was amazing. The kids had just left minutes before to go to piano lessons and they were so disappointed they missed it! I tried to film it but my camera is so lousy that I am linking you to two different clips of the process. The first is a youtube video but it is set to really silly music so turn off the sound if you can. The second is a mom and her kids watching it happen - scroll down to see the video clip. Both clips are nice recordings of the caterpillar turning into a pupa but I am sorry I wasn't able to include footage of my caterpillar. Prepare yourself - it is like something out of a science fiction movie! And mine also wiggled and twisted like that at the end. It's amazing it even stays attached. But here is what it looked like right after the transformation. The flat panels will eventually turn into wings.

The skin

15 minutes after the transformation - see how the wing panels have spread over the pupa and are starting to harden.

You can see how the pupa is becoming smoother and more formed each hour. And the rim of whit spots at the top is turning black and the spots at the bottom are slowly turning gold.

Stay tuned tomorrow - I will list some really interesting facts about this phase of metamorphosis and what is going on inside the pupa! And wait until you see the pupa fully formed - it is like a jewel!

Monarch Caterpillar - Day 14!!!

Yesterday evening was very exciting. After eating consistently all day, the caterpillar positioned itself on the underside of a large leaf and was very still. Every once and a while it would turn 180 degrees. And finally, we noticed that it had started to create the silk mat or anchor where it would hang to make it's "J hook." This is the position it takes hours to a day before it turns into a chrysalis. It makes the silk mat with secretions from its mouth but it hangs from its tail end.
Here you can see the little white nub from which the caterpillar will make its "J hook"

Here the caterpillar has attached its tail end to the silk mat. The second picture is its head.

This is the "J hook". The caterpillar is hours away from turning into a chrysalis.

I waited until 11:30 pm to watch the caterpillar drop into the "J hook" but when I turned away for about 5 minutes to do some research on the internet, I missed it. It is almost 9:00 am and still no sign of turning. I doubt I will actually catch it on film but I will try.
A few interesting facts about the larva/caterpillar stage:
1. The word larva refers to this stage of growth for all insects that go through metamorphosis. The word caterpillar only refers to a butterfly or moth in this stage.
2. As we witnessed here, when the caterpillar gets too large for its skin, it molts - or sheds its skin. It actually goes through this process five times - these phases are called instars. I must have missed the other times that the caterpillar molted. It is easy to miss because the caterpillar always eats its shed skin before it starts eating milkweed again.
3. Although the caterpillar has six pair of simple eyes called ocelli, its vision is very poor. It depends on its antennae to "see." The tentacles on its rear end are not antennae but they do function as sensory organs.
4. Like other insects, monarchs obtain oxygen through holes in the sides of their thorax and abdomen called spiracles. The spiracles are connected to a network of long airtubes called tracheae, which carry oxygen throughout the body.
This information comes from http://www.monarchlab.org/default.aspx
Well, this may be more information than you ever wanted to know but I find it fascinating. It's like Mr. Webb's zoology class all over again! Call me crazy but this is the best kind of entertainment af all!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Children's Art Show

For the July 24th holiday my mom hosted a children's art show and ice cream social. She displayed art from her grandchilren, children and even some artwork from when she was a child. She invited the extended family and requested that they also bring some artwork to share. Each artist received a first and second place ribbon. It was really cute to see how excited the kids were to see which of their art pieces received ribbons. It was a huge success and a wonderful way to spend the holiday.
The show:

The art:
Two pieces my mom did when she was a child

Kip's Hummingbird - age 6

Weston's Picasso - age 9

"Kippy" - age 3

"Grandma's Earrings" - Isaac, age 4

"Victor from Corpse Bride" - Isaac, age 7

Jack - age 3

"Butterfly" - Cate, age 4

"Flower" - Cate, age 4

Allie - age 12

Nick's claymation sculptures - age 14

Two more of Nick's creations

Nick sells his designs on t-shirts at this site: www.zazzle.com/alalge

Jake - age 9

"Starry Starry Night" - Addie, age 9

"Witch" - Addie, age 9

Artwork done by the cousins

The family:

Such a great idea Mom!