Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer Science with Monarchs

We live in the most wonderful place for outdoor science projects! Right out our door are fields of things to explore. As we see the first monarchs return we know it is time to begin searching the milkweed to look for any monarch caterpillars. This year we found a tiny caterpillar and documented his growth. Our little caterpillar started at 1 cm and we cleaned his jar and give him fresh milkweed leaves every morning.



Three days later we found that he had molted and was now 2 cm. A few days later we found he had grown again and his shed skin was at the bottom of the jar. (They actually molt 4 times). Our last measurement at 8 days was almost 2 inches!

I knew it was getting close for the caterpillar to climb to the top in search of a place to hang so I covered the jar for the night with an empty plant container (the most convenient item as we typically cover it with netting). The next morning he was crawling around on top looking for the right place for his chrysalis (pupa).



For the next day the caterpillar stayed still attaching itself to the top with silk. After that we found the caterpillar in a "J" formation and that same day he shed his skin for the last time to reveal the chrysalis beneath (a process I have only been able to catch once). It hardens into such a vibrant green with perfect gold embellishments.




It takes 9 - 14 days before the butterfly emerges and so we watched and waited each day for it to make it's appearance. On the 12th day the chrysalis began to get darker in color which means it is close as the darkness is the black of it's wings and the chrysalis is becoming transparent.



Day 13 we watched knowing today was the day for the buttefly to emerge. We missed it though and after running an errand found the butterfly hanging onto the shell of it's chrysalis drying. It stayed that way for an hour or so.



It then climbed out of the jar and continued to dry it's wings.



Testing it's wings we now see it is a female based on the thick lines of the veins. It is ready for flight but seeing as it is early in the season will only live 2 - 5 weeks. Butterflies that emerge in later summer will survive over the winter by migrating.


I think I get more excited about the whole process than the boys but it always amazes me that God created this little caterpillar and the detailed process He designed to turn it into a beautiful butterfly. It also is a wonderful picture of how when we surrender our life to Christ we become a new creation.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away;
behold, all things have become new!" 2 Corinthians 5:17



sahmto4orMore said...

Butterfly-raising is one of our favorite science experiments. We've never had the privelege of a monarch, though. They are so beautiful to look at and their chrysalis is such a nice color.

EEEEMommy said...

Very cool! We've been able to watch the process from chrysalis and cocoon to butterfly and moth, but never from the caterpillar.

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