Part 2 of this blog post is a sequel to The Need For Weed For A Beautiful Life, part 1.
Before the larva (caterpillar) started turning into pupas (chrysalis) I ordered a rearing cage (order here) to keep them in. This kept them safe and contained, yet still provided room to spread their wings when the time was right.
Please note, it is very important to understand that having multiple larva in one cage, it must be cleaned every day. Cleaning up the frass (poop) daily is a must because monarchs are highly susceptible to disease.
The last and most exciting stage for any monarch enthusiast is stage four:
4. Adult: after 10 – 14 days in a chrysalis a beautiful butterfly will emerge. It should be left alone for at least 5 hours before touching or tagging. It needs time for its wings to dry.
I finally received my tagging kit from the Monarch Watch Tagging Program at the University of Kansas. I was so excited to start tagging these awesome insects once they started to emerge. For $15 the tagging kit included: tagging newsletter, 25 small round tags with a tag code, instructions, datasheet and bookmark.
Once our butterflies started to emerge from their chrysalis my family and I were in awe of these beautiful creatures. Their wings looked like a crinkled mess. You might ask yourself how will it ever fly? But then it unfolds its wings and looks so amazing and perfect. It will hang for a few hours before it takes its first flight.
When a butterfly starts flapping his/her wings it is pumping bodily fluids throughout its wings. Then it will begin to fly from flower to flower for that sweet tasty nectar. Nectar will give the newly morphed butterfly the energy it needs to start its migration to Mexico.
Since I had the monarchs in a rearing cage they couldn’t go flower to flower. So instead, I made my own nectar. Using 4 cups water to 1 cup sugar and boiling it until the sugar dissolves, then let cool. I also added sliced apples on a bright orange plate. Butterflies are attracted to bright flowers so it’s good to remember to mimic the same attractants as nature.
There were days I would have just one butterfly emerge and days that I had as many as four. It was cool to watch each one. All but one made a spectacular entry. The one that didn’t would have never made it in life. When it started to emerge I knew something wasn’t right. It looked like a wet blob and wasn’t fully developed. It kept trying to remove its body from the chrysalis but it was somehow fused to it. Sadly, it died. Nature isn’t always perfect, though I wish it were.
After each wave of butterflies that emerged from their chrysalis we allowed them to have two days without being bothered. Once the two days were up we then began tagging them and documented all the data that was needed. When all the information was complete it was time for the best part…. To release them!
Although, it was exciting to release them it was also sad because you wonder how many will make it to their destination. Watching them turn into adult monarchs has been such a great educational experience. Knowing that our farm was chosen by monarch butterflies was such an honor and a blessing. My family and friends got to experience all this with us as well.
Now that I raised monarch eggs into gorgeous butterflies I see them flying everywhere. When we went to Gulf Shores, AL for vacation they were even flying over the beach. I couldn’t be sure if any of them were part of those we had we released, but it was cool to think we were watching the migration happen right in front of our eyes.
Part 2 of this blog post has been the most exciting, not only for me but for my family as well. Watching my kids enjoy each step of this amazing metamorphosis has been something I hope they will never forget. I documented everything and wish it didn’t have to come to an end. I would have never thought that a nuisances of a weed would bring so much beauty and joy to my yard. I now want to add more varieties of milkweed to my flower beds in hopes of attracting monarchs each year in the future. I hope one day, my children will find the same joy as I do in this new hobby.
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