Tuesday, 20 August 2013

They Grow Up So Fast...

The second and last butterfly hatched today. This morning the chrysalis was very dark with the black and orange of the wings showing through the transparent casing.
I knew it would be hatching any time.

After I ran some errands and got home, I checked the "Bug Bottle" and it had hatched. I got it to climb out on the stick.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a good photo of him (he had the telltale spots on his wings) before he flew away but I did get a video. This is a screen shot from the video from my iPhone. Sorry it's blurry. See the dot on each wing? He, too, was a big one.
And then he was gone. I didn't see where he went for his first flight, which was disappointing.

So this year we had a female and a male. I sure hope I get to hatch more next year.

No fancy equipment is needed. A wide-mouthed jar is all you need. I always start with a mayonnaise jar with a wide mouth because when the larva (itty bitty caterpillar) hatches from the egg, it's small enough to crawl out the air holes in the top of the "Bug Bottle". I just put a piece of pantihose over the neck of the jar with an elastic. I have also used a single layer of paper towel over the mouth of the jar - a barrier so the larvae can't crawl out but air can still get in.

The larvae are voracious eaters and need to be checked once or twice a day so the poop can be cleaned out (it gets bigger as the larva gets bigger) and fresh milkweed can be added. As the plants get larger, I only use the newest, tenderest leaves. Since we have had the "Bug Bottle" on hand since Scooter was little, we graduate the larvae to it when they get too big to crawl out the holes. We have used a glass jar all the way through the process with success as well. When time comes for the larvae to form the chrysalis, something relatively horizontal or with a good slant is needed for them to hang the chrysalis. Any lid with air holes should do the trick.

Once the larva has formed the chrysalis, nothing needs to be done. After a week or so, keep an eye on the chrysalis. Once it starts to turn dark, hatching is imminent. The butterfly will take several hours from exiting the chrysalis to unfurl and dry the wings and stretch them out before it is ready to fly away. Remove the lid. A longish stick left in the container will let it crawl up and out. This year's butterflies were so big, the "Bug Bottle" was too narrow for them to turn around to crawl up on the stick. I had to move the stick over to the butterfly so they could crawl out. Once out of the bottle or jar it will open and shut its wings and just sit. Then when it's ready, it just flies away.

Things happen fairly quickly once the eggs have hatched so every day there is something new to observe.

With a source of milkweed from which the eggs are harvested and then used for feeding the larvae, and a wide-mouth jar, you, too, can follow the one month life-cycle of the monarch butterfly.

Give it a shot next summer! And let me know how it goes.

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