This summer’s fascination with Monarch butterflies jump started with our visit to the Rhoades Butterfly Garden in early July. Luring Monarchs to my garden has been on my mind for a while. I planted Milkweed seeds in May. They’re growing strong in pots on my counter – I’ve yet to get them transplanted outdoors. A sad commentary on my summer.
Hannah and I have been raising the caterpillars, delighting in each stage of the process. Three of our eggs were donated by a friend. Once the Milkweed flowers came into bloom at our local patch we began to find eggs – and caterpillars on our own. This little guy is a newly hatched larvae.
They are little eating machines, requiring fresh Milkweed leaves almost every day.
This guy is almost full grown.
I kept the milkweed and caterpillars in this little net house.
When the caterpillars were ready to pupate, they found a spot to hang from and attached themselves with a web of silk.
I was lucky to catch this caterpillar wriggle about and shed its skin, turning into a chrysalis.
Within a couple of hours, the caterpillar turned into a chrysalis. At first, the chrysalis was soft-sided, the caterpillar’s colored banding still evident.
Within an hour or so, the casing hardened and these stunning black and gold markings appeared.
With a bit of thread, I carefully tied a knot around the hardened chrysalis and removed it from the net cage. I tied each chrysalis to a branch that I tucked in a bird cage. This setup gave me a better view of the progress and allowed me to continue raising caterpillars in the net house without disturbing the chrysalides.
About 12 days later we could begin to see the butterfly inside the chrysalis. I sat watching this guy for much of the night hoping to see it emerge – to no avail.
When I arrived home from work the next day, I found a new butterfly waiting for me.
It clung to my hand, gently drying its wings, letting me enjoy the moment.
After about fifteen minutes or so he fluttered off to land on some wildflowers in the yard, carefully testing its wings before flying away.
Monarch #2 and #3 – also emerged from their chrysalises while I was away. All grown up in the blink of an eye.
Hannah enjoyed releasing Monarch #4. Butterflies #5 and #6 emerged while I was in Ohio. I have one remaining chrysalis – one final baby waiting to emerge and take off into the world.
The parallel between our Monarch babies and Hannah leaving home for college is not lost on me. Raising the Monarch butterflies together was a fitting mother/daughter experiment this summer before college.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly,
but rarely admit the changes it has gone through
to achieve that beauty.”
~ Maya Angelou