Monday, July 20, 2009

Munching, crunching caterpillars.

Earlier this week, we took a walk up the road to go berry picking. However we came home with more than blackberries. We stopped to look at a patch of milkweed that was in full bloom, and Sequoia quickly spotted the first monarch caterpillar, and not long after that we spotted another. So we gathered them up and brought them home. In the wild only 1 out of every 10 monarch caterpillars survive to adulthood, because of the many predators and the lack of milkweed which is the monarch caterpillars only food source.

We gather, raise and release these caterpillars almost every year. Last year was the first year we didn't, because the county mowers mowed down the entire patch of milkweed before we could find/collect the caterpillars. We gathered milkweed seeds and have helped to plant and spread them around the edge of our woods and yard.

We love watching the little caterpillers munch and crunch all day and night, until it is time to transform.

This fat little caterpillar has chosen this spot to rest. He spins some silk around his back feet, to secure himself.

Then he drops down into the familiar J shape. He remains still for many hours.

Then he begins to puff up, and straighten out. He skin splits, and he begins to wiggle.

and wiggle.

and wiggle.

Until he has has completely shed his skin. Then he rests.

At this point he is still very soft, but over the next hour his skin will begin to harden.

As the skin hardens and tightens, he begins to take on the familiar monarch chrysalis shape.

In the past our caterpillars have all shed their final skin during the night or early morning, and we've never witnessed the actual process. This was really amazing to watch, and both the kids were totally fascinated by it...and amused at the wiggling dance the caterpillar seemed to do in order to shed his skin completely. When it was over i printed up this coloring page that shows the entire transformation. Although we raise caterpillars every year, it never ceases to amaze us or seem any less magical.

We look forward to meeting these new butterflies when they finally emerge.


themagiconions said...

Oh my Gosh!! That is totally amazing!!! My 5 year old has be studying these photos, she's amazed!
Thank you so much for sharing.
Blessings and magic.

Melanie said...

That's so cool, I've never seen our caterpillars shed either. Beautiful pictures.

Lisa said...

Wonderful series of photos once again! Beautiful!

Lisa :)

Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree said...

My daughter and I are really enjoying looking at your posts about caterpillars! She is so fascinated with caterpillars right now! We copied the coloring sheet!