Thursday, August 7, 2008

The lifecycle of a monarch

On July 8, in the late morning, we spent an hour searching the undersides of milkweed leaves to find a little pinhead sized dot which would indicate a monarch egg. We thought we had found five, but only two ended up hatching, about five days later. The two were raised by our friends for a couple of days and then we took over on July 15. At first they were about half an inch long and about three quarters of an inch long. Within a week we were feeding two 3 inch long caterpillars, who had grown so large I was even a little alarmed by them. We moved them in to two separate jars, as they were eating several leaves a day each and July 24 and July 25 they each secured themselves to the tops of their jars and popped into their green, gold dotted cocoons. We handed off one of the cocoons to our friend Ronan, and watched ours carefully for signs of change. On August 1 in the evening, the light, bright green cocoon started to turn a darker forest green and by bedtime it was nearly black. I had to get up bright and early the next morning to get ready for Childbirth Classes and at 6am there was some transparency to the cocoon's outer layer. By the time Lisa picked me up at 8am I could tell things were going to happen very soon. I talked to the cocoon all the way to Burnsville, informing it that what it really wanted to do was come out of the cocoon precisely at 8:45, which would give me time to photograph it without being late for class. As you can see, it was a little later than that!

15 minutes after its emerging, I wanted to set it outside, so it wouldn't damage it's wings in the jar once it was fully extended. As you can see, it wasn't yet fully "pumped up" and its wings were still very floppy. I did successfully transfer it to a lovely flowering plant near the door, and on our next break I came out to find it had flown away.

Both Andrew and I would LOVE to do this again next season, to see if we will see different parts of the process. Very cool experience!

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