Friday, June 19, 2009

The Hungry Little Caterpillar

Almost every summer for he last 5 or 6 years we've collected monarch caterpillars, and brought them inside to raise and release. It helps the monarchs by providing a safe, predator free environment, and is a fun way to teach the kids about the life cycle of a butterfly. Last summer was the first in many years that we did not find any monarch caterpillars. Just about the time we had begun to go out looking for caterpillars, the county mowers came through and mowed down all the milkweed! Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed, so without caterpillars. We are hoping to find some this year, and rescue them, before the mowers come.

Early this week, i was out in the garden checking my carrots and i found two black swallowtail caterpillars munching on my carrot greens. i have never raised them inside, so we decided to leave them where they were, and check on them regularly.

Yesterday when i went out to check them they were gone.

Not long after that, Kenan found one crawling across the deck. i knew that having left his food source, he was probably getting ready to pupate. So we brought him inside.

The kids were fascinated watching him crawl around the sticks and plants trying to find a perfect spot. Sage was too little to remember raising monarchs, so this was quite new to her.

He spent several hours hanging out on this stick, then eventually his legs pulled away from the branch so he was suspended. If you look closely you can see the silk holding his feet in place, he also created a silken sling to support his body.

We hoped to witness the formation of the chrysalis, in which he actually sheds his skin. However, he decided to wait until we were sleeping, so we woke up to find him in this form. He'll stay snug in his chrysalis for 9-12 days, then hopefully we'll get to witness him emerging as a butterfly. It is always magical, no matter how many times we witness it.

We have this fabulous book called Where Butterflies Grow, by Joanne Ryder and illustrated by Lynne Cherry. This is a great children's book showing the lifecycle of a swallowtail caterpillar, and the illustrations are absolutely fabulous! We have enjoyed reading this book, as we watched our own little caterpillar transform.

1 comment:

Alicia C. said...

I saw this in your sidebar and had to read! I cannot bring myself to pass up an opportunity to watch neture unfold in my livingroom. I found swallotail caterpillars on my carrots, too. We had the best time "growing" them. Great post.