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!
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!
We are still finding Monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars! I thought I would show you some more of these teeny tiny guys and how they like to keep me on my toes by sneaking off while I’m cleaning their “hotels” (or the little containers they are currently living in). Take a look at just how tiny the caterpillars are when they first hatch. See the dime? Look how small they are in comparison to a dime! Can you find 3 caterpillars in this picture?
Here’s one of them a little closer up. Compare it to the print on the newspaper. Wow!
It’s not surprising that I have trouble keeping track of them, is it? They also like to hide on the underside of a milkweed leaf.
Can you spy the caterpillar hiding inside the rolled up leaf?
I write down how many caterpillars are inside each “hotel” so I can make sure I find all of them. And I have to unroll every little piece of milkweed leaf to find them. This picture is after the leaf was unrolled.
This picture just looks like a dried up, rolled up leaf right? Should I just throw it away?
NO! Look who was hiding inside!! 🙂
Ok, now THIS guy was feeling VERY adventurous for a baby that is less than a day old!! He crawled out of his “hotel” even when the lid was on! Can you find him? He looks like a little line on the top of the lid. Oh my!
Now this caterpillar was one that I found outside when he was already this big. He was just sitting on a leaf, not moving while I got a new “hotel” ready for him. Until I walked away for a couple of seconds to get something I needed. And then he tried to make a run for it!! Haha! Don’t worry…when I offered him a milkweed leaf to crawl onto he was quite happy to come back. 😉 He thought the leaf tasted very yummy!
One more picture for today…this caterpillar was quite a fast crawler and he also made a break for it when I stepped away for a few seconds. He went happily back inside with the fresh milkweed leaves. Maybe he was just checking to see if any of the other “hotels” looked better than his? 😉
Did you enjoy reading about some of my caterpillars adventures? You might think raising caterpillars till they become butterflies would be rather boring, but it’s really not! I think they are rather funny and I love talking to them (“Hey, you! Get back here!”) and feeding them and watching them grow. 🙂
As you may have seen from my earlier posts, each summer I enjoy raising monarch butterflies. Their numbers have been drastically declining so I try to do my part in keeping them alive and well. Sometimes they make me laugh. Take the other day for instance…I was cleaning out their little “hotels” and so the lid was off. Some of the caterpillars I have at the moment had recently hatched so they are super tiny. Like this little guy…
He looks like he’s making a break for freedom! In less than a minute, he was all the way up here!
I could just imagine him saying, “YES! I’ve made it to the top and here I come big world!” 🙂 But the big human was watching. I grabbed a milkweed leaf and held it in front of him. He wasn’t too sure he wanted to get on the leaf but he finally did. Gotcha, little dude!
I looked away for a few seconds and when I looked back this is what I saw…
You sneaky little caterpillar! Where did you go?? Get back here! Guess where I found him? Look at the next picture and see…
Yep, he was hiding on the backside of the leaf! 😉 There were 10 little guys in that “hotel”, so I had to go on a hunt to find them all. Let’s see…we’ve now got #2 and #3…
There’s #2 through #7…
Added in #8 and #9…
Where in the world is #10 hiding?? OH, there he is! 🙂 Hiding on the bottom side of a milkweed leaf again!
Found them all! It can be hard but still fun when trying to spot all the little caterpillars. I guess I need to invest in a magnifying glass! 😉
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! 🙂
You are not going to believe how fast they grow!! Check out this picture that was taken yesterday, August 27, 2020.
Can you say WHOA!! Now they look like fat little sausages! That’s because they eat a LOT of Milkweed leaves! If you find a Monarch caterpillar and you would like to raise it inside your house, just make sure that you have access to lots of Milkweed leaves for them to eat. They will only eat Milkweed leaves.
Would you like to see where we found a bunch of our caterpillars this year? Some were on this Swamp Milkweed plant. Swamp Milkweed plants grow pretty tall and they have pink flowers in the Spring. Can you find 3 caterpillars in this picture?
We found more caterpillars on this Butterfly Milkweed plant. Butterfly Milkweed plants don’t grow as tall as the Swamp Milkweed and they have pretty orange flowers in the Spring. Can you find 3 caterpillars in this picture too? One of them is hiding down low on the right side of the picture. 😉
Sometimes we have found caterpillars on the Common Milkweed plants. This is what it looks like. It’s leaves are much bigger than the other 2 Milkweed plants and it also has pink flowers in the Spring.
When we bring the caterpillars inside our house, they live in a cozy little apartment with a couple of sticks to climb on and Milkweed leaves to eat. We place a damp paper towel on the bottom of the apartment to make it easier to clean up after them every day. They also poop a lot!
We had 4 apartments but we kept finding more caterpillars and eggs so we added more apartments!
We house up to 3 caterpillars in each apartment. They eat and grow and poop to their hearts’ content until one day, it’s time for the next stage in their life cycle. They climb to the top of the apartment or on a stick and then they J-hang. Don’t they look like the letter J hanging there?
Usually about a day after they start to J-hang, they will go into their chrysalis. But that’s a topic for another day! Check back next week when we’ll explore the next phase in their transformation! 🙂