We have been observing the monarch life cycle and taking pictures.
We used Zoomy again to take this picture when the caterpillar was in its first instar. Caterpillars have an exoskeleton that does not stretch as they grow so they have to molt or crawl out of their exoskeleton. Monarch caterpillars molt 5 times so they have 5 instars.
Now our caterpillar is in it's second instar. It is about 4mm long - so small we still needed to use Zoomy to take the picture!
Our caterpillars keep eating and growing!
We are fortunate to have so many monarchs to observe! They have prolegs that are like velcro so they can crawl up plants and not fall down.
This caterpillar is molting for the last time. This time it reveals a chrysalis under the exoskeleton. Look on our home page for a video of the last molt.
This is what a chrysalis looks like after the molting is complete and right before the butterfly emerges. It takes about 2 weeks for the caterpillar to go through complete metamorphosis and become a butterfly!
When the butterfly first emerges it is wrinkled and wet. This butterfly has pumped up its wings with fluid from its abdomen. It will not be able to fly until its wings are dry. That usually takes about 2 hours.
We tag our butterflies with tiny stickers from Monarch Watch to help scientists learn more about the migration of monarchs. If someone finds our monarch they will let us know where it is found. Some monarchs migrate 3,000 miles from Canada to their winter home in Mexico!
We used an app on our iPad called iLapse to record 2 of our monarchs emerging from their chrysalises. Can you see their proboscis?
It is still growing! It just molted for the first time. It is lighter in color and we can't see the black head capsule.
To learn more about gulf fritillary caterpillars click here.
On Tuesday, October 7 Mrs. Southwell was working in her garden. She noticed a monarch butterfly gliding over her blue mist flowers. Then the monarch started flitting around the milkweed plants. It hovered over the plants like it was looking for something, then landed and put it's abdomen under a leaf like this:
She was laying eggs! She continued to lay eggs until Mrs. Southwell lost count of how many eggs she had laid! Mrs. Southwell brought a few of the eggs to school for us to observe. This is a close up view of one:
We are hoping the egg will hatch on Friday, October 10 because we read that they hatch three days after they are laid.