|Image found at https://networkofideas.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/the-monarch-butterfly-vs-the-viceroy/|
This week's science experiment actually started several weeks ago, when I spotted a caterpillar on the sidewalk near my Butterfly Weed plants. It was a rather distinctive color, so I immediately began to investigate. I was hopeful because two years ago the kids and I went on an epic "Search for a Monarch Caterpillar" which ended in failure. Last summer we also kept our eyes open whenever we were near milkweed plants, hoping to find a caterpillar we could raise, but again we were unsuccessful. Then wouldn't you know, here was the very creature we had been searching for two years for, crawling along in the middle of the sidewalk. I quickly gathered the kids and we collected our specimen. Ian made a quick tour of the neighborhood to search for milkweed plants to gather and I ventured into our basement to dig out our dusty bug cage.
For the next few days the caterpillar wandered around inside the cage, doing what caterpillars do: eating. Then after about 3 days (I know, I should have been keeping a journal of observations or SOMETHING, so I could be more precise and scientific) we made one of our random observational visits and the caterpillar had attached itself to the side of the cage and entered its pupal stage inside a green chrysalis.
After that nothing happened for about 10 days, except that we pulled the dead milkweed plants out of the cage so that we could see better. On the 10th, or possibly the 11th day, we observed that the chrysalis was beginning to change color, and by the 14th day it had become clear and we could see the colors of the monarch butterfly inside. He was about to hatch! The only problem was, we were getting ready to head out the door that morning to attend our homeschool group, so we were afraid we'd miss the culmination of our experiment. There was nothing to do but pack up our little pet chrysalis in the car and headed off. Midway through the morning "Orangy" (affectionately named by Brynn) hatched out of the case and all the kids got to check on him as his wings hung down and began to fill out and his body transitioned to the shape we are familiar with. It was all very exciting!
A website I checked on the subject of raising monarch butterflies said that we shouldn't release our butterfly into the wild until the day after it hatched, so since Orangy didn't seem inclined to fly anyway we kept him in the cage until yesterday. We carried the cage outside and set it down on the patio and then waited to see what happened. Nothing. He just sat. Eventually the kids and I headed off to other tasks and eventually the butterfly flew away. Thankfully it was a very unemotional parting.