Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Raising monarchs

a monarch butterfly egg, on underside of a milkweed leaf

A monarch butterfly egg, very enlarged

One of the regular readers of this page sent in a report of her experiences raising monarchs from egg to butterfly:

One enchanted summer I raised over 20 Monarchs from eggs. It was a lot of work, driving all over creation to find fresh milkweed leaves every day for those incredibly hungry caterpillars! I collected around 23 eggs, all of which hatched, and of those, 21 lived to spin their chrysalis(s???) All 21 emerged, and 20 lived to fly away -- one was deformed and couldn't fly. I collected the eggs at different times, so this was a constantly unfolding drama. After the fifth day of this 10-day stage, a very faint image of the developing butterfly could be seen through the wall of the chrysalis, and every day after that the chrysalis seemed to get thinner and thinner, showing more and more. By the time the butterfly was ready to emerge, it looked like an incredibly folded and compacted package wrapped in plastic wrap. I only got to actually see a few of them emerge, but every morning I would wake up to one or two new Monarchs, slowly unfolding and gently waving their wings dry. The butterfly would walk right on to my hand, and I carried it outside and sat until it took its first flight. It wouldn't go far and then came back to my hand and sat a little while longer. Then it took off for good. Each butterfly did that. Isn't that amazing?
Jan Lipert