Monarch Butterflies

Second two

Click on thumbnail images on this page to see a larger view.

After I released the first butterfly, Kathleen asked if I would be interested in raising some caterpillars. She brought some milkweed leaves with eggs and tiny caterpillars and cut out about the center 1/3 of a leaf with two of them and left several whole leaves to keep in the refrigerator to feed them later. This time I was able to observe the whole life cycle.

Newly hatched caterpillars

August 22, 2004 - two caterpillars munch on one third of a milkweed leaf. They are probably still near where they hatched.

detail showing caterpillar to the left

Detail showing one caterpillar

August 24, 2004 - the caterpillars haven't consumed all of the original leaf, but it was turning yellow and showing signs of mold, so I put in a fresh half leaf. When they are small, it is better to let them go to the new leaf on their own to avoid injury.

The one caterpillar is decidedly larger than the other. It represents one day's growth!

growing - whiskers show

August 25, 2004 - the caterpillars are still working on the half leaf, but are larger and their "whiskers" or "feelers" and characteristic stripes are showing clearly.


August 26, 2004 - they are still working on the half leaf.

half leaf almost done

August 27, 2004 - most of the half leaf was gone. I moved the caterpillars into a glass fish bowl with fresh leaves that I collected while strolling with friends.

getting bigger


new home

August 30, 2004 - the caterpillars are quickly consuming the leaf supply, so I went to the lagoon where I had seen the milkweed plants early in the morning to gather some more. When I got there, I saw a large wading bird.

I found plants that appeared to have been pushed over by a mower. I harvested two tops from inconspicuous places, then put them in a plastic food storage bag. I then headed home by way of Pick'n Save Metromart, where I had to explain to the checker what was in the plastic bag in my scooter basket. They have a huge produce section, but they don't carry milkweed leaves, at least not yet!

When I got home and unpacked the groceries, I set up a container Kathleen provided. I inserted the milkweed stalk into the slit in the lid of a yoghurt cup to keep it fresh. I then transferred one of the caterpillars into it. I cleaned out the fish bowl, inserted the stem of the second milkweek stalk into a plastic bag with a moist paper towel and put the second caterpillar in it.

caterpillar on milkweed in fish bowl


caterpiller through netting

September 1, 2004 - the smaller of the two caterpillars (in the fish bowl) is still content to munch on milkweed leaves.

The larger one (seen through the net on the top of the container) has started crawling all over the inside of the container and ignoring his food. This is the first I have seen one of them leave the milkweed leaves.

hanging in J-position

September 2, 2004 - things are happening quickly. When I got up I found that the larger of the two had attached himself to a corner of the container and was hanging in a characteristic J-shape.

shedding skin

I returned to working on my computer but caught a glimpse of green from the corner of my eye. At first I thought the caterpillar had cut off a piece of leaf and was eating it. When I looked closer, I saw it was shedding its caterpillar skin and forming a chrysalis.

I left to meet some friends, we saw the bird again near the lagoon along with a lot of migrating birds. Decided it was a blue heron. When I returned, found the second caterpillar had also formed a chrysalis.

scan of chrysalis

September 9, 2004 - I have been waiting for the metamorphasis. It was difficult to get a clear picture with the camera, but the caterpillar in the fish bowl had attached to a wooden chopstick, so I gently laid it on my scanner to get a better image.

The veins of the wings are visible, and the metallic gold spots make it look like a piece of jade jewelry. I find I am missing watching and feeding the caterpillars.

starting to darken

September 10, 2004 - the chrysalis of the smaller caterpillar is starting to darken.


The larger one emerges!

very dark, orange showing

September 11, 2004 - this morning the chrysalis of the second one is very dark and wing coloring is visible clearly.

stretching its wings

A few hours later, it too emerges as an adult.

If you have looked around on this site or know me, you will remember that I live with Ling Ling, a Siamese cat. One would wonder what the cat thought of all this activity. He didn't notice anything until after I released the first two butterflies and the third was strengthening his wings (850 KB QuickTime movie).

Ready to fly

September 12, 2004 - the migraine I had yesterday is easing and the day is beautiful, so this last butterfly release will be better documented. He is ready to go, and since Ling Ling knows what is going on, need to pack the fish bowl on the scooter and let him go.

the release - 200 KB QuickTime movie