Photograph - Photograph
Monarch butterflies have four generations in a season. Here in Michigan, it is only the fourth generation of monarchs that fly south to Mexico for the winter.
This is Mona. She was a tiny, quarter-inch caterpillar when I saved her from the birds and bugs to assure she’d be able to transform into this magnificant creature.
We fed her fresh milkweed leaves daily. She grew to a fat caterpillar over two inches long. We watched her transform into her chrysalis stage. And then we waited… Ten days later, the chrysalis becomes black and a butterly emerges very soon thereafter.
Monarchs are tiny and their wings are completely shriveled when they break out of the hard chrysalis. Each stage is amazing to witness.. She injects fluid from her body into her wings to literally blow them up like a balloon. Then she rests and hangs still for a few hours while her wings continue to get larger and dry, gaining strength to fly.
To tell a female from a male is done by looking for a dark spot in the middle of their lower wing. If there is a spot, it’s a male. If there is no spot, it’s a female. Males also have thinner black webbing on their wings.
As soon as they start to open and close their wings, they are ready. I carefully gave her my hand to crawl on, which she easily accepted. I walked her outside to flowers so she could feed immediately. She stayed there for almost 18 hours. And then she was gone. If all goes well, she will travel hundreds of miles on the wind currents to Mexico.
I highly recommend growing milkweed so you can witness this transformation for yourself. Not only my grandchildren enjoyed it, but so did my husband.
Only about 10% of caterpillars survive their natural predators, so they could use the help. There are many articles on raising them inside online.
We saw a video of millions of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico. My family laughed and said they could pick Mona out of the crowd.
October 19th, 2020
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