Showing posts with label butterfly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label butterfly. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"It Turned into a Beautiful Butterfly"

Our Monarch butterfly hatched from it's chrysalis on Sunday. We let it go on Monday. I was a little worried about it because it only had 4 legs instead of 6 (?). I carried it around in my hand for a while (mainly because it is a rare opportunity to hold a newly hatched butterfly - it sits so still while it slowly opens and closes its wings) examining the mutation and then all of a sudden it flew away!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Growing a Monarch

We've been growing a monarch caterpillar since last week. This is what he looked like when my friend gave him to us (about five days after hatching from the egg).

This is what he looks like about a week and a half later.

Last year I spent a lot of time posting about the development of our monarch caterpillar all the way to a butterfly so I probably won't go into as much detail this time around. But if you are interested - it is a fascinating process and I shared some interesting information about the development in my posts.

This makes a great summer project - although I think it is probably too late in the season to find any eggs now. But there is always next year!

In the search for fresh milkweed for our caterpillar I ran across a pod filled with seeds. I wonder if I should try to plant some in our yard?...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Monarch Butterfly - Hatching Day

A few hours after our butterfuly hatched from the chrysalis, we held it very gently (by the body, not by the wings) and examined it.
The beginning and the end of metamorphosis

We took the butterfly outside and a when we checked a little while later it was gone...

We are kind of sad to see the whole process end! But it has been absolutely amazing!

Monarch Butterfly - Finally!

Well, it happened! Our butterfly hatched and sadly we missed it. It happened at about 8:30 this morning.

You can watch a video of a butterfly emerge here. The narration is educational too.

Why do butterflies emerge hanging upside down? Butterflies hang upside-down when they emerge from their chrysalis so that gravity can help them pump the fluid from their abdomen into their wings. This allows the wings to expand and dry so that the monarch can use them to fly! (

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Monarch Pupa - Day 9...later

Wow - look how much it has changed in just half a day! I am not sure how soon it will hatch. We might wake up tomorrow morning to a butterfly - we might not.

Monarch Pupa - Day 9

I think we are getting close. The chrysalis is losing the brilliant green color and you can see a shade of the orange wings.
Interesting note: Right before "eclosion" (the escape of the butterfly from the chrysalis), the black, orange and white wing patterns can be seen through the pupa covering. This is not because the pupa becomes transparent; it is because the pigmentation on the scales only develops at the very end of the pupa stage (
What is this? Type "Monarch" in the search box in the upper left hand corner of my blog, click "search blog" and you can see the development of our Monarch so far.

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
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
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!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Life of a Monarch

Last summer, our friends gave us a Monarch butterfly egg so we could observe the process of the caterpillar hatching and turning into a butterfly. It was such a neat experience and I was anxious to try it again this summer. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants so we found the plant and collected a few eggs earlier this summer but they never hatched. My friend Jamie - who is pretty much an expert at raising Monarchs - found another egg for me and finally - success! It hatched and the process begins...
This isn't the actual egg that our caterpillar hatched from - but this is what it looks like, usually a little more creamy colored.

Here is our hatched caterpillar - about two days old. It was even smaller than this when it hatched. It is amazing how much it grows each day!

I will continue to post on this process and hopefully we can make it to the end - it's incredible!

If you want to try this - it's not that difficult (although we have only done it once). You have to first find some milkweed - to make sure it's milkweed - break a stem and see if a sticky, milky substance drips out. It grows almost anywhere - most commonly next to fields or even along the freeway. Carefully search the plant (mostly the underside of the leaves) for cream colored, sort of conical shaped eggs - a little bigger than the size of a pin head. Try to pick the stem with the egg (don't try to remove the egg from the leaf) and several leaves and remember where you got the egg - you may need more milkweed after your egg hatches and you have a very hungry caterpillar! Keep the stem in water and check your egg everyday. It's very tiny when it hatches - it can be easy to miss. But you will see where it has started to eat the leaf. Then you need to just watch and wait while the caterpillar grows.

Stay tuned for more! Kip - I bet you have milkweed growing near your house. You should totally try this!