Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Tale of Two Butterflies

Last week my neighbour, Dorothy, gave me two pupae of Monarch butterflies to look after.  We sat at her place and watched a caterpillar turn into a chrysalis and then I took home these two that had already "matured".  She has been collecting eggs and releasing butterflies from her screen topped aquarium for almost 40 years, much to the delight of many generations of children, grandchildren and school students.  And for me, at age 64, this was my first experience of the process!

A Monarch butterfly lays her eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves, usually one per plant.  These tiny eggs become caterpillars which start munching on the leaves (and any other eggs that might be there) and live for about 2 weeks.  It leaves the milkweed plant and finds the underside  of a twig or even a window ledge attaching itself with a ribbon of silk.  When it assumes the "J" shape it is time to shed it's skin and become a pupa.  Over the next 10 or 12 days it will turn into a butterfly which will then emerge on a bright morning.  Just before this happens the pupa turns darker until it is black, and then becomes transparent.  These monarchs will migrate to Mexico, a trip of 4000km and may take up to 8 months to get there.  Monarchs born earlier in the summer have a life span of one month or so, but in the fall it is much longer.  It may take as many as 4 generations of monarchs to make it back here.

I hope you enjoy the pictures that follow.

It was very sad to have the process over but such a delight to see them fly away.


Heather said...

I'm so happy you posted your experience with the butterflies and I hope you adopt a chrysalis again. It seems to me one could do this year after year and never tire of watching the miracle unfold.

Penny Boden said...

Stunning photies. It is so wonderful to be able to watch this process and miracle of nature. We are never too old to learn and to be inspired! Thanks for posting.

fighting princess said...

great pictures!

iffatali said...
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