Thursday, August 30, 2007


Last year at the VaHomeschoolers' conference, Tia gave us some "cats" to raise. We had a supply of our own milkweed--growing everywhere around the house--and were able to successfully raise about 5 or more to become butterflies. I've got a couple video clips--one of the transformation into a chrysalis and another when it emerges as a butterfly. Here's the link to see the first video clip. I don't have the other clip up yet.

This year we searched our milkweed plants and found some monarch caterpillars on them. We brought four inside (this was on the 19th) and put them in a "critter carrier" plastic tank with lid, similar to these, but longer, along with a nice supply of milkweed.
They were already pretty large:

By the next morning, one was already hanging in the "J" they go into before turning into a chrysalis.

When I brought in some fresh milkweed on the 21st, I saw this little guy:

Unfortunately, something happened to the first caterpillar--after turning into the chrysalis, something made a cut in the casing, and there was extra silk hanging from it. Could have been an insect brought in on the milkweed, maybe. I ended up removing it when this other caterpillar changed into a chrysalis.

We soon had two more turn into chrysalises, but the second caterpillar that made the "J" died before reaching that point. It just hung upside down, straight, again with silk hanging down. So right now we have just two chrysalises.

And one quickly growing caterpillar. This is the same one from 9 days ago.

And yes, you're seeing frass scattered on the bottom of the tank. The larger the catties get, the larger the frass. I had to empty the tank after the others were "done."

I'm pretty sure I saw several eggs on the milkweek I brought in this morning, so this could keep going for a while! Here's a site that talks about monarch "black death," which I'd never heard of before. I still haven't found an answer to what killed the caterpillar and the chrysalis.
Apparently, you can turn your back yard into a Monarch Wayward Station--I'm going to find out more about the program.

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Beth said...

Oh, that looks wonderful. Years ago, when my now-18yo was young we "raised" monarchs one summer. With my younger kids we've stuck to Painted Lady butterflies.

Saille said...

We love monarchs! We find an abundance of them here, as well, and have been tagging them for Monarch Watch. You can see our monarch posts here:

Tara said...

The chrysalis with the thread hanging down was caused by the tachnid fly, which is a parasite that lays eggs in the caterpillar. The fly's offspring then digs out after the chrysalis forms. It uses the thread as its escape rope. Check out for a picture of the fly and it's pupa.