Monarch caterpillar to chrysalis

If you’ve seen my earlier posts (I list them at the bottom for you, with links), you know that a monarch butterfly visited our garden and left several eggs on our milkweed.  We brought the eggs in and when the caterpillars emerged, we fed them. I haven’t posted many photos of the caterpillars – but I promise I’ll do a blog post about them. For now, I’m too excited and want to show you what happens when a caterpillar pupates. We’ve had several do so already, and I couldn’t get photos of them, so I was glad to see that this fellow –

was right in front of the cage, and looking for a spot to form his “J” -that’s when they attach themselves securely to a surface so they can hang down and pupate.

He hung like that for several hours, then all of a sudden I noticed that he had straightened out.

He was starting to transform! His larval skin split, starting at his head – which is at the bottom.

The skin kept splitting higher.

Finally the larval skin was all crumpled at the top. It fell off a second after I took this photo.

The chrysalid twists and turns violently during the entire process, which is one reason some of the photos are not completely in focus.

After the skin fell off, he twisted and turned a bit more. He will contract in size, and the outer surface of the chrysalis will smooth out. The time from when he relaxed down from the “J” until I took the last photo was only 9 minutes!  I don’t have a photo of him in his final chrysalis form, but this is one of the others that turned yesterday:

I feel so lucky to be able to experience this miracle firsthand, I hope you enjoyed the photos!

These are my other posts about the monarch who laid the eggs, and the caterpillars:

Monarch in the Garden

Monarch Eggs in the Garden!

First Monarch Caterpillar Emerges

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Anise swallowtail butterfly from 2006!

I think I’ve mentioned here before that anise swallowtail butterflies don’t emerge from their chrysalises on a set timetable, like monarch butterflies do. George thinks that it’s probably to ensure better survival, so some of the adult butterflies will emerge pretty quickly – in a couple of weeks, but others hang out for much longer.  You can tell that they’re still alive by touching them gently – they move.

This photo collage I did for the butterfly exhibit in the El Cerrito Library shows the caterpillar getting ready to become a chrysalis (pupate) – that’s the top left. The bottom left and top right show how different the chrysalises can look, some bright green, and some drab brown. The bottom right one shows what the empty chrysalis looks like after the adult butterfly emerges. Anyway, we were so excited to see that the beautiful female that emerged today became a chrysalis way back in 2006!

She must have come out sometime during the night, because she was ready to go this morning. Since the weather is so nice, we put her outside on a yampah plant, that’s the native larval food source for anise swallowtails. While she was resting happily in the sun, I got this photo of her from the side, showing her head, including her eyes, proboscis (that’s what they sip liquid food through), and antennae.

We always hope that the females we raise and release will remember the plant and come back to lay eggs, so we can continue the cycle.

Butterflies in Your Garden

My butterfly display at the El Cerrito Library  is up! It’s in the glass case at the front of the library.  It will be there from June 5th through mid-July.

One of my aims is to show people how to garden to attract and nurture butterflies in their gardens.  Along with some of my photos of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and of the anise swallowtail butterflyand my artwork and crafts from my butterfly photos, I’ve put together some lists with information about local butterflies, their food sources and helpful plants.  I’m attaching the lists to this post as pdfs for you to read and print out for your own use.  If you want to copy them for any other use, please contact me for permission.

First, a partial list of Bay Area butterflies, with my photographs of a few of the butterflies:

Bay Area Butterflies

Second, a partial list of larval host plants for local butterflies. These are the most critical plants, because the butterflies need them to lay their eggs on. When the eggs hatch, they eat the plant to survive until they change into chrysalises:

Gardening to Attract Butterflies: Larval Hosts

Third, nectar plants for butterflies. This is also a partial list to give you some ideas about what you can plant to provide nectar for Bay Area butterflies. Most adult butterflies feed on flower nectar. Not all flowers provide nectar, so if you really want to help the butterflies, try to include as many nectar-providing plants as possible. The butterflies will waste energy visiting flowers that don’t provide nectar. And of course butterflies are great pollinators, and as they feed on the nectar they carry pollen from previously visited flowers:

Bay Area Butterfly Nectar Plants

Fourth, I compiled a bibliography of books related to butterflies, native plants and gardening that are available in the El Cerrito Library.  This is the link:

Books about Butterflies and Native Plants at the El Cerrito Library

Last, but not least, George wrote a wonderful description of the evolution of our garden and yard into a wildlife habitat:

Killing our lawn, by George McRae

If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments.  Hope you can make it to the display.