Friday, October 01, 2010

Our Monarchs from Caterpillars to Nose Hangers

My apologies about being so lax on my postings. I've privatized the blog now, and I can have up to 100 readers. This way I know who is reading about and looking at our family pictures. Not a big concern, but now I can finally talk about Hawaii without our neighbors or some of our customers getting overly concerned. We've told a lot of people, but since we do not know exactly when we will be moving we don't want to tell the whole world just yet.
Right now it looks like Spring/Summer 2011. We wish it were RIGHT NOW!
Catching up...I've posted 122 pictures to our Flickr page...which is also by invite or only visible to Family & Friends of us on Flickr. That was easier than posting all 122 pictures to the blog, and I think it might be easier for you to print the pictures. I haven't written any details on the pictures yet, but I plan to do that. My computer time is fairly limited these days :) The link to our Flickr page is here. If you are able to see this blog, but you can't view the Flickr pictures, then just send me an email.

Okay waaaayyyy back in the beginning of August Kyle went on a mad mission to find Monarch caterpillars in our yard on the copious amount of milkweed we have let take over...just so we could have lots of butterflies flying about. Monarch caterpillars are very particular little fellows and they will only eat milkweed.                      

When Kyle first found them (he found 5!) they were sooo tiny we could barely see them. We made net houses that hang from our center beam so we could watch them grow.
And grow they did! In the beginning we only need to pick fresh milkweed once a day. Kyle or Reeve (sometimes me & Stella) would go out and find the most tender looking leaves. Then those caterpillars start to eat, and they eat, and they eat. Pretty soon we thought they were going to be as large as a dinosaur!
Stella got a real kick out of watching them eat. We kept telling her that they were baby butterflies. She could climb up onto this chair to watch. I know, I know...climbing chairs is "dangerous", but it's over carpet (for the most part) and there is NO stopping Stella from climbing!

When they have gorged on milkweed for about a week...and I do mean gorge...towards the end we have to pick the milkweed several times a day and clean out the when they are done eating, they travel up the net to the top and find a suitable spot on the cardboard to "hang".
They somehow attach themselves and move into a "J hook" position. It really looks like they are praying and chanting because they kinda gently move up and down. They do this for about a day and then they shed their skin and face and antennae and form a chrysalis. It is hard to see in the pic below, but there is one caterpillar in the "J hook" and one that has formed the chrysalis.
They chrysalis is truly amazing and I was not good at capturing the details on it. There are shiny golden and black bead dots decorating it. They remain in the chrysalis for a little over a week.
Then the chrysalis becomes transparent and we can see it turn black. It doesn't take long after the color changes to black for the butterfly to break out...I'd say less than 5 hours. When we see the change we watch it constantly and have seen them emerge...I never have the camera quite ready and it is really hard to take a close up picture through the net.
When it does first happen their wings are still all folded up and very very wet.

Then they slowly unfold and start to air out. We know to wait about 30 minutes before we take them outside for pictures.
This is Kyle's favorite part! The butterflies are super friendly at this stage and they will walk all over you without flying away.
Little Stella was amazed!
She did not want that butterfly on her! She did love to see them on her brothers.

There are LOTS more pictures of butterflies on the kids at the Flickr page.

Now I'm off to wake up Reeve and get him ready for school! Kyle gets up too, and if Stella is up then we all walk to the neighbor's house and they drive him to school (they teach at the school).