Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monarch Action - Round 2

Okay, so I started you out last week with Coddling Caterpillars, telling you what to be looking for.  Then I promptly found my first caterpillar late last week, and then lightning took out my router and I've been down ever since, so he's already on his way to metamorphosis as we speak, but I'll try to get you caught back up. 

This is a monarch caterpillar:

Notice my high-tech solution to the no-holes-in-the-lid-of-the-mason-jar problem.  One nail, one lid, and a few whacks with the hammer gets you a holey lid.  Not reusable for canning, obviously, but reusable from year to year with your caterpillars - note the stem of last year's chrysalis stuck there below the caterpillar. 

Anyway, he was quite huge when I found him, but he didn't start out this way.  See pictures of eggs on linked blog above.  Here is a picture for comparison of a tiny baby caterpillar and one that is almost ready to go:

See the tiny one down there under the big one?  Probably a week or so separates them.  They are quick growers. 

Anyway, once you find a caterpillar, stick it into a jar with holes in the lid and feed it fresh milkweed leaves every day or two.  The caterpillars eat a lot, so they also poop a lot.  You'll want to clean the poop out of the bottom of the jar when you put new leaves in, just to keep things clean.  I recommend dumping the contents of the jar out on a paper towel like this:

This is just in case there were eggs on any of the new leaves you brought in that might have hatched.  Leave no leaf unturned.  And watch out for the poop.  In this particular batch, I found the little guy in the previous photo.  Glad I didn't dump him in the trash. 

Now, by this time, the big fat caterpillar I'd found first had made his chrysalis on the jar lid and I found this:

All that is left of his previous body is the skin.  Shed his face clean off.  But we know what the outcome will be, right?  More attractive than a caterpillar.  Yes, I would think so. 

And this is what he looks like now:

Ok, so the lighting wasn't great, but you get the idea.  At this time, he gets his own jar because I don't have anyone else currently threatening to turn themself in to a chrysalis anytime soon.  (See contestants #2 and #3 up above)  You'll want your chrysalis jar to be clean and free of any old leaves, etc., so the new butterfly will have room to expand.  I recommend at quart jar.  Pint jars are technically big enough, but seem a little cramped.  Plus, most have a jelly patterning or something on the sides and it makes it hard to see through.  If the chrysalis forms anywhere but at the top, don't try to move it.  The stem is very important and cannot be broken.  I try not to put more than three chrysali  in any one jar. 

And now...  we wait.

Shouldn't be long though.  Monarchs typically hatch a week to ten days after entering the chrysalis state.  My guy has been in about four days now, so expect a butterfly announcement sometime early next week.  

More developments as they become available.  

Over and out.   


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