Have you ever watched a caterpillar make its chrysalis? Here’s your chance!
It is AMAZING, a true miracle of nature.
I recently took 4 Monarch butterfly caterpillars out of a field I found them in, afraid that any day now the owner of the field will come along and mow. This seems to happen all the time where I live and each time, when I drive by to discover the field flattened, I am devastated, a little piece of my heart breaking for all of the “little wonders” that were living there.
The mowed field in the middle of summer will mean certain death to all of the eggs, all of the developing caterpillars and any Monarchs or other butterflies that have made their chrysalis. They have no chance against this and some might say “so what?” but knowing the Monarch population is down 90% makes it hard to swallow.
Rather than take that chance, I decided to raise them myself, giving them a “free ticket” to becoming adults. No worries about the field getting mowed, no worries about a predator eating them or a parasite coming to lay eggs in their body. In my netted “Milkweed cafe” they remained safe. I give them everything they need and will set them free in the same field when they become adults.
Besides helping the Monarchs, I also get to witness this incredible transformation. When the caterpillars have grown big enough for the next stage of their lives, they enter a “wandering stage” where they will leave the Milkweed patch, in search of a suitable spot to make their chrysalis. In nature they may go 300 feet away from their food plants–an adaptation to give them a better chance from predators who may notice their frass (scientific word for poop of insects, especially caterpillars) or the fact that the leaves have been eaten by something. In my netted enclosure they can’t go too far, choosing their spots on sticks I have added or even the netting “roof.” They don’t seem particularly fussy. Once they find a spot, they create a silk “button” from which they will hang, remaining upside-down in a J-shape for about a day, and then, will shed their skin for the last time, forming their chrysalis, where they will remain for around ten days.
Amazingly, all 4 of the caterpillars formed their chrysalis within hours of each other. The rigid J-shape became more like an L, with the caterpillar hanging straight down, their antennae becoming totally limp, just before they begin the process. I was fortunate enough to be home and able to film it, so you can watch below.
If you want to know what you can to do to help the Monarchs, click HERE. If you want to learn why they are in trouble, click HERE. If you want to read about my adventure to Mexico to see their amazing migration, click HERE.
I hope to have another video in ten days when the butterflies emerge from their chrysalises. Wow, that will be awesome!
Enjoy the video! Isn’t nature amazing? (By the way, I clipped this video a bit and sped it up in a few places, but the entire process, once it starts going, takes about 5 minutes. The video here is only about 3 minutes.)