It all starts with a tiny butterfly egg…

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! 🙂

Butterfly Chrysalis #3

If you have been following along with our butterfly chrysalis story, you know that #1 and #2 are safely on their way out into the big wide world. It’s time to report on chrysalis #3. Our son and daughter-in-law who live in IN got the third one. Aaaaaaand it emerged yesterday! 🙂

Guess what? It’s another female! And her name is Cassie. 😉 Wow, hard to believe all 3 were females! She also snuck out of her chrysalis when no one was watching. (Maybe they are shy? Lol) So today was Cassie’s big release day! Here she is venturing outside for the first time.

Cassie decided she liked sitting on Melissa’s finger and so she took her time adjusting to this new place. Then she stretched her wings a few times and she was off!

There is something rather exhilarating, but a bit sad, when the butterfly flies off on it’s own. After all, that’s the whole purpose of raising them…to help them prosper and replenish their dwindling numbers. It’s a wonderful project that kids will love doing so if you can, please help us help the beautiful Monarch butterfly survive! And stay tuned…we’ve been finding Monarch caterpillars! 🙂 🙂

And She’s Off! Butterfly Release

I promised yesterday that today would be the BIG DAY!! It’s time for our Monarch Butterfly that we hatched in our home, to wander out into the big world on her own! It was actually a little bit anticlimactic after all of the excitement of waiting for her to emerge. Did you catch that little word “her”? Yep, it’s a female! (Males have 2 black spots on the top side of their wings that females don’t have.)

Male and Female Monarch Butterflies

So here is Beauty in one last picture inside her little house. (Yes, I might have named her! haha!)

I carefully opened her house, reached in and gently lifted her out and sat her among some Purple Coneflowers.

Beauty immediately opened her wings to the sun…flexed them a few times and she was off! I only had time to snap one picture of her before she flew straight up and over the top of our house and out into the big new world! Go, Beauty, go! We’re rooting for you! 🙂

Butterfly #2…called The Queen by her loyal human subjects…also took her maiden voyage this morning over in Indiana! She (yes, also a female!) spent a little more time hanging around on the Milkweed plant before venturing out on her own. Isn’t she beautiful?!

The third chrysalis I bought at the Pollinators Festival hasn’t hatched just yet. I’ll keep you updated on that one’s arrival and whether its a boy or a girl. Isn’t this interesting? We are all having so much fun with this project! You really should try it too if you get the chance! 🙂

Chrysalis Update!

Guess what?! Our Monarch’s metamorphosis is complete!! I’m so excited!! I’ve been trying to keep a close eye on our chrysalis, but our butterfly snuck out of the chrysalis when I wasn’t looking! Sneaky thing! It happened so fast! Let’s back up in our story just a little bit. Here’s how our Monarch was looking on Monday evening…

The chrysalis was a light green color and you could barely make out what looked like lines on wings when looking at the side of it. But things changed by Tuesday evening…

The chrysalis had become a very dark color…a dark green or almost black. That’s how it looked Wednesday morning when we got up. I was working in the kitchen…where the chrysalis has been “hanging out” in its little box sitting on the counter. I hadn’t looked at it for maybe half an hour and so I glanced over, expecting to not see much difference yet. SURPRISE!!!! The butterfly had already emerged!! I was completely shocked at how fast it changed!

You can see what is left of the chrysalis hanging beside the butterfly. Over the next little while, the butterfly’s wings seemed to stretch out flatter.

We gave a chrysalis to our daughter and her family and theirs also emerged today!

There is one more chrysalis that I bought at the Pollinators Festival and we gave that one to our son and daughter-in-law. As of this morning, theirs hadn’t turned the darker color yet. I’ll keep you posted on that one as I get news from them. For the rest of today, our butterfly will just be hanging out in his little home and tomorrow he will get to venture out into the big world! If you get a chance to raise a Monarch butterfly, DO IT!! I can’t tell you how much we are enjoying this! I’ll be back tomorrow to let you know how this butterfly’s release goes! 🙂

Pollinators Festival

I found the coolest festival not far from us on Saturday! It was called Pollinators Festival and it took place at Gorman Nature Center near Mansfield, Ohio. Our population of pollinators (butterflies, bees, etc) is dwindling and they need us to help provide the kind of environment they require to flourish. Fran LeMasters, The Butterfly Lady, was there with her live butterfly exhibit and it was so awesome to see! You could walk inside the enclosure and see butterflies up close and personal! And even offer them a drink of watermelon juice from the end of a Q-tip.

Here’s a bunch of butterflies hanging out up on the “ceiling”.

And here’s a beautiful large Swallowtail butterfly. (Sorry, but I forget which kind of swallowtail she said it is.)

There were Native Plants for sale…native to Ohio which are the plants our pollinators need. (I limited myself to buying only 8. Haha!) There are plants that are native to each state and you can find the information about your state online. Google is a great place to start looking.

It was a wonderful warm summer day and I enjoyed just walking around looking for pollinators among the flowers that are growing at the center. Can you spot the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly?

The highlight of the festival for me was buying a few Monarch Butterfly chrysalis so we can watch them hatch into a beautiful Monarch Butterflies one day soon!

I’m glad to say they came with instructions!

So the excitement is building! Today the chrysalis looks a little lighter shade of green in some places and I can begin to see the shape of a wing inside.

I will post the progression as the chrysalis changes and the butterfly emerges. If you get the chance to take your kids to a butterfly exhibit, DO IT! I saw a lot of excited kids AND adults enjoying themselves learning about the life cycle of butterflies. I will post more about the Monarch butterfly’s plight soon and will be asking for your help to save them!