Catterpillars, chrysalis, butterfly… Oh, my!

I can’t believe it’s mid-October! We spent the end of August and most of September raising some monarch caterpillars, which means that the butterflies we released will migrate from Toledo all the way down to Mexico (not sure where exactly) where they will hibernate for the winter. I have always loved butterflies, but this process has fascinated me and I cannot help but stand in awe at our awesome Creator.

It takes, apparently 4 or 5 generations to reach Toledo from Mexico, first of all. And the last generation will live through the winter because they don’t die until after they mate/lay eggs (for the lady monarchs, that is).

Each caterpillar is born with 2 sets of DNA… One for its time as a caterpillar/chrysalis, and one for its time as a butterfly. Say what!?

Check out our beauties.

Our first two we named Max and Mary. Sadly, Mary died about two days before Max turned into a chrysalis. This process makes the caterpillars extremely delicate and vulnerable, but it was still sad. The children buried her in our backyard and Ethan said a very sweet prayer (he thanked God for the friends who gave her to us, for the time we got to spend with her, and that we’ll see her in heaven where she is sure to be a beautiful butterfly, even though she didn’t make it to butterfly status in this life.)

I have missed the transformation process for all our caterpillars, because they hang upside-down for almost a whole day, then we’ve always had to go somewhere and the caterpillar turned into a chrysalis by the time we got back from wherever.

The chrysalis turned black and you can see the monarch wings through the chrysalis the day the butterfly will emerge.

Again, I have missed all emergings because it happens in about 5 minutes. Literally, I was checking every 5 to 10 minutes and the first time he was in his chrysalis, the next time he was out. And Max was a he…

After Max, our friend with milkweed (who gave us Max and Mary) asked if we wanted any more to make up for the loss of Mary. So we took home Sam, Alice, and Mary II. Thankfully, all three reached butterfly status.

Sam turned out to be Samantha, Alice turned out to be an Alex, and despite our being prepared for Mary II to turn out to be Mario, she ended up being able to keep the name Mary II.

Phoebe keeps asking me “Where ‘fly-fly’ go?” And I tell her they flew away to Mexico. And she nods like she understands. Little ones understsnd much more than we give them credit for, I’m sure.

Next year, my milkweed-owning friend and I plan on buying a kit to actually tag and track some monarchs, and I’m already looking forward to it.

Except for the poop. As a mom of lots of littles, you’d think I would be used to lots of poop. But caterpillars poop so much more than anyone would ever expect. That is the takeaway lesson from this endeavour. Caterpillars poop a lot.


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