Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Caterpillar Named "Butterfly"

I became intrigued with the idea of hatching a butterfly when I learned a friend of mine has done this with her children and they loved it. She found her caterpillar in a milkweed patch. I am a nature/animal lover at heart, so I thought of doing this sometime maybe next year. I thought it was too late to find one this year, but we went to the park by our house and I saw milkweed all over. I started looking around and within a few minutes had found a nice, plump monarch caterpillar. He looked huge! I decided to keep day to day pictures as he changes from caterpillar to butterfly.

Around 3:00pm
Found the caterpillar in the park in the wild grass area. This picture was taken while the caterpillar crawled on J's toy lizard. This was before I put him an empty water bottle I had in the car to transport him home.

Around 6:00pm same day.
Now in its new home (an old lunchables box). He seemed to want to be near the top of the container and after this picture, he actually moved to being upside down on the top of the cage. At this point, I asked J what he wanted to name him. After lots of ummm....ummm....he said Butterfly! I asked a couple times just to be sure he meant that as a name and he said yeah, call him Butterfly!

Around midnight same day.
Went to check our little guy to see if he ate any of his leaves or if he was still hanging out at the top of the cage and viola! Here he is in "pre-pupa" stage with his "cremaster" molded to the top and hanging in the J formation. (The cremaster is a black, hook-like piece that attaches the pupa to an item where they will hang until becoming a caterpillar).

Between 12noon and 3pm
WOW! He moved into the chrysalis stage without us being able to witness it! Sorry these pictures aren't so great, but he's hanging there in his green cocoon. The most amazing thing is, if you get really close you can see a ring of these incredibly tiny gold-looking beads that form a ring around the top. It's amazing! Cocoon jewelry??? (From the research I did, it appears the function of these is not quite known but may have something to do with pigmentation or scaling of the eventual butterfly.)

Here's the story .... So we took him with us on our vacation up north and put him in the car about 12noon. By the time I checked on him around 3pm, he had already transformed into a green cocoon! So the chrysalis (cocoon) itself is actually clear, and what you see is the caterpillar inside but it is now called a pupa. From my research, it only takes them about 3 minutes to shed their skin and become a pupa so we would have had to watch him constantly. Then, once they shed their exoskeleton they are a yellowish color and it takes about 2 hours more to reach the hard, green cocoon stage. So we missed the yellow-turning-green stage too. (I can't complain though, because it's still exciting to learn all this.) Now we are waiting 10-14 days until our little friend should come out as a butterfly. We will get a warning sign as the cocoon will change color as the wings are formed. At that point, the cocoon will look very clear and you will see the orange/black color which is actually the wings. I'll post again about this when that is happening!!

1 comment:

Julia said...

I love this post... so awesome!

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