Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monarch caterpillar to Monarch butterfly - how it all happens!

If you ever get to witness this - it will be one of the most incredible things you have seen.

The Monarch butterfly, after mating, lays pin prick size eggs on the underside of the leaves of a swan plant. The eggs hatch and a very tiny caterpillar emerges. (this one is about 1cm)

(this one is about 3cm long)
It proceeds to eat and eat and eat through the leaves.

They shed their skin a few times as they grow and grow and grow.

Finally when you think that they couldn't possibly get any bigger, they attach themselves to a leaf or a stem and begin the process of becoming a pupa.

They don't spin a cocoon. Their skin actually splits and their insides transform to this shape and colour right before your eyes. It is amazing.

After about two weeks, the pupa becomes very dark and you can actually begin to see the stripes and colour of the almost butterfly.

When it emerges it's wings are all crumpled and it actually pumps it's body to get the fluid moving into it's wings as they expand as you watch.

Within an hour they are fully pumped up and they begin to flap their wings slowly up and down and walk around on the leaves.

Here is the boy from yesterday.

This one is a girl. Can you 'spot' the difference now?

Within 24 hours they are ready to fly, and unless you want to chase them all over the house, it is time to release them into the garden.

We released ours on to a Budlia which is a great source of nectar for them.

They will mate and lay their eggs on to the swan plant - and so it begins again.

There ends our lesson for today - pop quiz tomorrow!

Cheers from here!