Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Butterflies and Best Friends

This summer our family educational project has been raising Monarch butterflies.  We've had an abundance of Monarch caterpillars in the garden this year munching on whorled milkweed plants so we fixed up a caterpillar "house" from a wire pet carrier (thanks, neighbor!) :o) and tulle netting.  Then we filled it with milkweed plants and caterpillars.  Within a couple of weeks each caterpillar began turning into a chrysalis.  We were able to track the progress of their transformation over the next couple of weeks by watching the color of their chrysalis turn from a light green with beautiful gold "jewels" on it to black and orange as the wings became visible inside.  As each butterfly began to emerge, we would give them a day for their wings to dry and then release them back into the wild for destinations unknown. 

Some fun facts that we've learned during this project:

>A Monarch egg hatches within 3-8 days and is no bigger than the head of a pin.
>The only food Monarchs eat is the milkweed plant.
>They remain in the caterpillar form for 7-17 days.
>During their caterpillar stage they will grow up to 2,000 times it's size.
>They form a chrysalis and remain in this stage for 8-15 days.  The day before it emerges the chrysalis   becomes transparent and you can see its black and orange wings.
>Monarchs born in the spring and early summer live for only 2-6 weeks.  Monarchs born in late summer migrate to Mexico for the winter and may live up to 8 months or longer.
>The male monarch has a spot on each lower wing, the females do not have this spot.

These are some of the photos from the final butterflies that we released.  Happy migrating, Monarchs!

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