We have talked about butterflies emerging from their chrysalis and we’ve done some fun butterfly crafts but we skipped the part of how the chrysalis come to be. So here’s a few interesting details and lots of pictures to show what happens when the tiny Monarch butterfly egg hatches. 🙂 The female Monarch butterfly lays eggs only on a milkweed plant because that is the only plant the Monarch caterpillar will eat. There are different types of milkweed but here is what the Common Milkweed looks like:
The eggs are so small that its easy to miss seeing them on the leaves. Be sure to look at the underside of the leaf too. When a Monarch caterpillar hatches, they are very tiny. See if you can find the little guy in this picture. The little black dots are caterpillar poop or frass.
The Monarch caterpillar has the distinctive black, white and yellow stripes. Here is a caterpillar that I found on a milkweed plant close by our house. He has grown quite a bit bigger!
If you find a Monarch caterpillar, you can bring him inside and fix a nice little place for him to grow until its time for him to turn into a chrysalis. (Butterflies make a chrysalis and moths make cocoons.) There are little pet houses available for purchase for around $6-$7 that work really well. Place a damp paper towel on the bottom of the cage, add a stick for climbing and some fresh milkweed leaves every 24 hours. Make sure the top of the cage has air holes but the holes shouldn’t be big enough for the caterpillar to climb through. They WILL escape if they can fit through the holes! 😉 A screen is a great thing to use.
Yep…they poop a lot! That’s probably because they also EAT a lot! Ok, we’ll take a minute to have some fun! Let’s go on a caterpillar search! The first picture has just one caterpillar in it. Can you spot him?
Good job! Now the next picture has 2 caterpillars. Do you see both of them?
You are good at this! Ok, now for the hard one! This picture has 4 caterpillars in it! One of them is only just peeking the tip of his head out…look around the center of the picture, off to the right just a bit. Did you find all 4?
Are you ready to find out what happens next? The caterpillars go through stages called instars and they will shed their skin because they have outgrown it. Finally, when the caterpillar is finished growing, he will crawl to the top of the cage and attach himself to it. Then he will hang upside down in the shape of the letter J and this is called “j-hanging”. Can you see the caterpillar that looks like a J?
The next stage is where he goes into his chrysalis. They will hang in the J shape for a while, but when they go into the chrysalis it only takes a couple of minutes for it to happen so its hard to catch them at just the right time to see it happen.
You might even find a chrysalis hanging outside if you look carefully.
And then we are back to where we started a few posts ago…waiting for the butterflies to emerge from their chrysalis! When they first emerge, their wings are wrinkled like this butterfly.
But within just a few minutes, his wings will begin to flatten out.
Here are 2 butterflies that emerged within minutes of each other.
Its best not to release the butterflies outside if it is raining, so these 2 were enjoying a bit of watermelon sweetness while waiting for the storm to pass.
But then it was time for them to venture out on their own and start the cycle all over again. 🙂
I hope you have enjoyed our butterfly adventures! It’s been so much fun sharing this with you! 🙂