Can You Spy Our Little Friends?

Just for fun today, I have 4 pictures for you to look at and see if you can spot a little animal friend or friends. The first one is the easiest one…here we go!

#1.) 5 little babies are in this picture. Can you find them all? (You can see part of a 6th one too.) (Baby chicks)

2.) Can you spot 1 little brown friend in this picture? I almost stepped on him before I saw him! (Baby toad)

#3.) This little yellow, white and black striped friend was crawling on one of my flowers. (Monarch butterfly caterpillar)

#4.) And now the tiniest of all our friends today! Can you spot him? He’s a smaller version of picture #3. (Monarch butterfly caterpillar)

Wasn’t that fun? Keep your eyes open when you are outside because you never know what little friend you might see! 🙂

What Happens When a Monarch Caterpillar Goes Into Its Chrysalis?

I’m back to tell you some more about what happens when a Monarch caterpillar goes into its chrysalis in the next stage toward becoming a butterfly. When the caterpillar is fully grown, it stops eating and finds a place to hang upside down. It attaches itself to the top of the hotel or a stick if its still in nature. It looks like the letter “J” when it hangs.

This next picture shows 3 different caterpillars in the different stages of going into a chrysalis.

The caterpillars hang in the letter J form for a day or so and then something amazing starts happening. They straighten their bodies out just a little and if you watch very carefully at just the right time, you can see little ripples moving up across their body. They are getting ready to shed their outside layer of “skin”. The “skin” will start to split open down by the head. They are hanging upside down so their head is at the bottom.

The split will get bigger and bigger and you will see more and more of the light green part appear.

Notice how the “skin” is getting all wrinkled up at the top.

Then finally, the bunch of old “skin” they don’t need anymore falls off.

They will wiggle around inside for a little bit and it will get shorter and shorter.

The rings at the top change and the chrysalis becomes smooth.

This is what a finished chrysalis looks like. Notice the gold dots and the gold line. Isn’t it amazing that a caterpillar made that??

The caterpillar is inside the chrysalis now and will be there for around 1 to 2 weeks. You won’t see much happening for a while but a wonderful, amazing transformation is taking place inside! I’ll share another post later of what happens when it’s time for the Monarch butterfly to emerge!

It’s That Time of Year Again! Raising Monarch Butterflies!

Yep, it’s begun again! In case you haven’t followed me long enough to know what I’m talking about, every summer I raise Monarch butterflies and release them back into the wild. The Monarch butterfly population had dwindled down drastically, but over the last couple of years the population has increased a LOT! Which is so exciting!! Many people are doing their part to grow plants that the Monarch’s feed on. Monarch caterpillars will only eat Milkweed plants. I look for the Monarch eggs or caterpillars and raise them in a safe place away from many of the predators that will destroy them. Here’s the start of my setup this year!

Last Sunday morning, I found 6 caterpillars and put them into their “hotels”. 😉 Some children were here that day and they discovered 5 more! And we were off and running! 🙂

I don’t put more than 4 caterpillars in one container at any given time. And I try to put the same sized caterpillars together.

Today I found 1 more caterpillar and he/she is still very tiny! Can you find him/her in the next 2 pictures?

Isn’t that pretty neat?! I won’t share all the steps today that the caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly, but for now I’ll just say eventually they form a chrysalis. They stay in the chrysalis for a while and then the Monarch butterfly emerges. It’s truly magical! (I’ll share more details in another post.) Here is a picture of 4 of this year’s caterpillars that have gone into their chrysalis now:

For some reason, it seems they all wanted to be in the same corner of their hotel! LOL Two of them are actually touching, which I’ve never had happen before. Now the wait is on till it’s time for the butterfly to put in an appearance! I really enjoy raising Monarchs each summer! 🙂 It’s a great experience to share with your kids!

Monarch New Beginnings

It’s that most wonderful time of the year again! No, I’m not talking about Christmas. It’s the time of year when the Monarch butterflies have come back into the United States from wintering over in Mexico. The females are laying eggs on their favorite plants and people all over are doing their part to help the Monarch caterpillars survive to become butterflies. The number of Monarch butterflies has greatly declined over the last decade. It’s a great feeling to know you are helping to preserve these beautiful butterflies! And so, let’s take a peek at how the process gets started. Monarchs like the Milkweed plants and the female Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on Milkweed. Here are a couple types of Milkweed that grow around where we live in Ohio.

Common Milkweed. This plant will grow wild along roadsides and its fun to watch as you travel around and see how many Common Milkweed plants you can find.

Swamp Milkweed. This plant I purchased from a greenhouse and planted in my flowerbed in hopes of bringing the Monarch butterflies close by where we could see and help them.

Butterfly Milkweed. This plant I also bought at a store and planted in my flowerbed in hopes of drawing the Monarchs here. Aren’t the little orange flowers so pretty?

When you see these types of milkweed plants, look at the leaves and see if you see any Monarch caterpillars crawling around on them. They are often on the under side of the leaves. What does a Monarch caterpillar look like? Here is a picture of some Monarch caterpillars that are partially grown.

But I’m getting the cart before the horse! Whoa, back up there! When you see milkweed plants, not only should you look for the Monarch caterpillars, but you should look for their eggs. They are usually on the bottom side of the leaves too. They are super tiny so they are easy to miss seeing. Can you find the egg in this picture?

Yep, that little dot on the leaf over on the left hand side of the picture is a Monarch caterpillar egg. 🙂 We’ll call the egg the first step in the process. So the next step is when the egg hatches. The caterpillar that hatches from that tiny egg is so small it can be very hard to see it. I tried to take a close up picture of one that had just hatched. It’s rather hard to make it out, but that black dot is the caterpillar’s head.

The baby caterpillar will first eat the egg it hatched from and then they will look around for some milkweed to munch on. Milkweed is the only plant that a Monarch caterpillar will eat. There are 4 caterpillars in this next picture. Can you find all 4? 2 of them are super little! The other 2 have been around for a few days.

Here is another picture of a caterpillar that is really small, but bigger than the newly hatched ones. You can also see 3 more caterpillars that are older.

So now you know what plants to look at to see if you can find any Monarch caterpillars or eggs. And you know how super super tiny they are when they hatch. We’ll take a look at watching them grow on another day’s blog post. Happy hunting! 🙂

Paper Caterpillar Racing Fun

Well, it’s Easter weekend and many things are different this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the “stay-at-home”and quarantine orders. We can choose to be miserable and dwell on what we can’t do or we can pick ourselves up and make our own fun things to do. Here is one suggestion that will bring giggles and smiles to the kids’ faces. Let’s race paper caterpillars! 🙂 All that’s needed is some construction paper, something to color with, a pair of scissors and a drinking straw. The Crayola company has beautiful directions for this project on their website and here is the link to get you there:

We tried this project at our house so I want to share our paper caterpillar fun with you. Here are our caterpillars…let’s see…they need names…how about Carl and Cathy?

Carl is the one on the left and Cathy has the dots and stripes. They are ready for the race! Let’s set up the Finish Line!

The way you make them race is to blow on their backs through the straw. It will make them hop up and down and move forward. Here we go! Ready….Set…GO!! And the caterpillars are off! They’re inching their way down the racetrack…steady there, guys…oh, my, this is going to be a close race! Who will cross the finish line first?! Aaaaaand the winner IS…….

Cathy Caterpillar!! YAAAAY!! But look at that! Carl was very close behind! I think he might win the next race, don’t you? Everyone in the family can make a caterpillar and you can have a competition. I hope you at least have fun making and racing your caterpillars! Happy Good Friday to you! 🙂