Friday, March 28, 2014

Well, THAT was fast...

We had been keeping an eye on the monarch chrysalis in our courtyard for the last 2 weeks. A couple of days ago we noticed the beautiful green chrysalis had turned a dark charcoal black. That didn't seem like a good thing, and we feared the worst.

Two days later we noticed the black chrysalis was no longer visible in the chuparosa bush. We figured the caterpillar inside had died and the chrysalis probably dropped from the twig.

A day after that, we got curious and took a closer look. We found the chrysalis was still in its place, but saw the butterfly had emerged sometime earlier, leaving behind a torn chrysalis that was a very pale translucent tan color.

Some quick research showed that what we thought was a dead black chrysalis was actually the wings of the ready-to-hatch butterfly showing through the walls of the chrysalis.

It was surprising how quickly the butterfly metamorphosed through the chrysalis stage into the adult butterfly. We first noticed the little caterpillars on 4 March. By 10 March they had tripled in size. On 12 March we found the chrysalis in our chuparosa bush. And it appears that the adult butterfly hatched out around 23 March.

Adult monarch butterflies will live 2-6 weeks, during which time they will feed on nectar and mate. The females will then lay eggs that will become the next generation. Hopefully we have enough of a variety of native plants for the adult butterflies to feed on, and they will decide to lay more eggs in our yard. Adding more milkweed plants is definitely on our gardening to-do list.

(And next time we'll know to grab the camera when the chrysalis turns black...)

For more information about Monarch Butterflies, their life cycle and how you can help them:

Learn how to create a Monarch Waystation for migrating butterflies:

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