Monarch Caterpillars Going Into Their Chrysalis

Hi there! Last week we ended our blog post about our Monarch caterpillars when they were starting to J-hang. They attach themselves firmly to the top of the cage or stick they are hanging from and then they hang like the letter J.

This week let’s talk about what happens when they go from J-hanging into their chrysalis. Here is a picture of 3 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 their 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 they will get shorter and shorter.

The outside of the chrysalis begins to look smooth.

Here is a chrysalis that is finished that we found outside.

Did you notice the gold colored dots and the gold ring around the chrysalis? Isn’t it beautiful?! 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! Be sure to come back next week when we’ll talk about the process that happens next! That’s when the new butterfly emerges from the chrysalis! 🙂

Monarch Caterpillar Babies Are So Tiny!

Hi everyone! Hope you are all doing great! We have hatched some Monarch caterpillars from their eggs for the first time and I just have to show you how cute they are! And TINY! You won’t believe how tiny! On Thursday, August 13th, I found my first ever Monarch Butterfly egg on my milkweed plant. I was so excited! I am trying to do my part in saving the Monarch butterflies, so I brought the egg inside to keep it safe from predators. Do you see the little round ball on this piece of a milkweed leaf? That’s the egg!

The next day I found 2 more eggs and brought them inside. Then on Saturday, August 15th, the first egg hatched! It was really hard for me to even find the tiny tiny little caterpillar. See if you can spot him in this picture. Look on the left side for the caterpillar…and on the right side and bottom for two more eggs.

Can you see him? His head is black and he is green right now, almost the same color as the leaf. The next picture I took was on Sunday, August 16th. What do you see? The caterpillar is already growing bigger and is a little easier to see. See all those teeny tiny little black dots on the white paper towel at the bottom of the picture? Can you guess what that is? It’s teeny tiny caterpillar poop!! Isn’t that funny? 😉

Now let’s look at the picture from two days later, Tuesday, August 18th. I put a dime in the picture so you can compare the caterpillar’s size to the size of the dime. Even though he is growing fast, he still looks very little beside the dime, doesn’t he? See the little hole in the leaf? That’s where he ate part of the leaf.

Guess what else happened on Tuesday? The other two eggs hatched! But wow, I had trouble finding them! See if you can spot one of them in this picture. If you found the “big” tiny caterpillar, then look straight up from him to find the brand new caterpillar.

The next two pictures are from today, Friday, August 21st. The new babies are just 3 days old. Aren’t they so cute?! 🙂

The “big” tiny caterpillar is just over one week old. See if you can find all three caterpillars in this next picture.

It is so fun and so interesting watching these Monarch caterpillars hatch and start to grow. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing just how very very small these caterpillars are when they start out. Stay tuned for more Monarch caterpillar information next week! 🙂

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! 🙂