Monday, July 21, 2008

Just Hanging Out

We have been enjoying watching monarch eggs develop into caterpillars and then chrysalises and then butterflies that flutter up over our house and away.

Here are two of three caterpillars just hanging out in "J" formation. They are slowly starting to melt into a goo which will feed the different cells and transform them from chrysalis to butterfly. It must be exhausting!

This one already became a chrysalis.

Oh--here's Abigail Adams, or Martha Washington or Serenity Hopkins (that sounds colonial--doesn't it?) She's gently cradling some boards wrapped in fleece to pretend to hold a baby for my son to photograph.

The baby is taking a nap, so now she has time to see the caterpillars and the chrysalises. There's just one caterpillar left. Is that "J" formation looking a little droopy? Maybe something is about to happen. Let's carefully watch.

Yep. Droopy.

Wow! Look!! It's starting to split open!

Cool, huh son?

At this point, the caterpillar started to whip back and forth to shed the last of the skin.

This is fantastic, isn't it?!

To the left...

To the right...

Cha, cha, cha...

Now, I'll just dangle.

Soon, I'll pull up into the same shape as the other chrysalises. Then we'll all hang out until we become butterflies. Life is good.

To be continued...


janice said...

May I be so bold as to ask how you got the caterpillars in the cage? Did you capture them off the parsley plants? Did you buy them? My relative has caterpillars eating their parsley and I have wondered where the caterpillar goes to make his/her chrysalis? How long does it take before the butterfly emerges? I am very interested in this and you have done an incredible job of capturing photos. Thank you.

Laura said...

Hi Janice!

I'm not sure what kind of caterpillar is eating your relative's parsley (it might be a swallowtail)--mine are monarch butterfly caterpillars and they eat milkweed.

To get the eggs, I look at the underside of the leaves and then when I see one, I gently tear off the leaf and put it in a jar lid with water.

Once they hatch, and grow a little and start eating the milkweed leaf, I move them into the screened cage that my husband built.

I have to keep on tearing off leaves for them to eat--they eat a lot!

When they're ready, about a week or so later, they crawl up to the top and start their chrysalis stage.

They'll spend about another week becoming a butterfly, and then emerge.

We let them out and rest on a stick or edge of the cage and then when they're ready, they fly away.

It's beautiful.

If you can grow some milkweed, you can do this too.

Thanks for visiting.

janice said...

Ok, I think you are right... all this time I thought it was a monarch butterfly... according to this cool site ( it's a black swallowtail.

So, of course, my next question to you is What do the eggs look like? I have seen some leaves with a series of little dark dots on them. Are these butterfly eggs? I guess they need to be milkweed leaves that the eggs are found on. Now I need to learn if there is any milkweed in this area. :)

We actually raised a (purchased) butterfly in kindergarten and released it... it was very cool.

janice said...

PS The caterpillar was purchased.

Laura said...

If you do a google image search of "monarch butterfly egg" you'll see close up pictures of them. If you see a tiny whitish dot on the underside of a milkweed leaf--it's a monarch egg.

Neo-agrarian said...

Janice the cat on the parsley is a swallowtail. I am having a huge crop of black swallowtail this year. I found some cats on the parsley which is next to my dill. Keep on feeding it and it will eventually turn into a beautiful butterfly. I like the swallowtails because of the osmeterium they have when you bother them. They really do emitt a fowl smell.

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