Magical Monarchs – Part 2

As you’ll recall from Part 1 of Magical Monarchs, we witnessed the transformation of tiny monarch larvae into fat caterpillars.  Ultimately, the caterpillars underwent an amazing metamorphosis and became chrysalises that we transferred into emergence chambers.  Once in their emergence chambers they sat in their beautiful green capsules for nearly two weeks.

Transferring chrysalises to emergence chambers.

Emergence chambers in rows.

One morning when I went to do my routine observation of the chrysalises, I noticed that one was turning black.  As I peered closer, I noticed the characteristic orange of a monarch’s wing peeking through.

The chrysalis darkening.

A comparison of chrysalis color.

It wasn’t long before the transformation was officially complete and the monarch was pushing itself out as a butterfly. It was quite spectacular to watch the pulsations of movement as it emerged.  They come out with wet wings that need to dry before flying.

Freshly emerged monarch.

After allowing it some time to adjust, I tipped the cup and allowed the monarch to climb up the wall of the bug dome where it could stretch its wings. It did this quickly, seeming to be relieved that it could finally try opening them up all the way.

Leaving the emergence chamber.

Within a day, the other monarchs followed suit and their transformations were complete — we had many new monarch butterflies!

Fresh monarchs in a row.

They were quite active.

We kept them around for several days by providing them with fresh flowers and a nectar solution.  Soon, it was time for tagging and release.

These butterflies were all participants in the tagging program of Monarch Watch which helps scientists to understand monarch migration patterns.  A tiny sticker with a unique code was placed on the distal cell of the monarchs before releasing them.

Tagged monarch.

We also set up a small display to share the experience with visitors.  We taught them about the monarch migration, the Monarch Watch program, and then had children assist us with the release of the butterflies.

Teaching about monarchs.

Getting ready to go!

Even after releasing multiple monarchs, their journey away continued to leave me speechless.  There is something very uplifting about watching these orange creatures burst forth into the blue sky, and also seeing the excitement of the children who helped us.

Some of the monarchs immediately caught air currents and sped quickly away, while others stuck around to take advantage of nectar nearby.

Newly released monarch!

All the monarchs have now left and I am thinking of them each night, wondering if they’ve found a place to spend the evening, how far they’ve traveled, or if the wilds were too much for them.  Hopefully, several will make it all the way to their roosting grounds in Mexico!

Tagged monarch nectaring.

What a rewarding and fun project!

Monarch Waystation

Make sure to also check out Part 1 of Magical Monarchs and A Monarch’s Message.

See the Monarch Watch website to learn how you can raise and tag butterflies, or build your own Monarch Waystation.

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15 thoughts on “Magical Monarchs – Part 2

    • Thanks! I’m glad you learned a lot!
      I do love teaching about the natural world! It’s nice to have this blog to do some of it, and I hope to keep finding more ways to incorporate it into my life – it’s my favorite part of my current job, although it’s only a small part.
      So glad you enjoyed witnessing the project, too!

  1. Christine, this was one of my thrills working at Lake Metrparks – Penitentiary Glen. Every year we did a display. A few times I saw them emerge from the chrysalis. I had the chance to take one outside. It was a thrill having the Monarch on my hand until I placed it on a flower in the butterfly garden.

  2. I think the whole thing is wonderful and especially that you did the whole educational display and public release. I have seen several tiger swallowtail caterpillars on my dill and parsley plants. A few months ago, I had harvested some parsley and when I was making bunches for the farmer’s market, I noticed that I had harvested a plant with a tiger swallowtail caterpillar on it that had just started to attach itself to the plant to pupate. I kept that plant aside on my fireplace mantel so that it could go through its metamorphosis. I checked on it every once in a while, but then I kind of forgot about it until one day a few weeks later I was working at my desk and I saw a beautiful tiger swallowtail resting on the floor next to me. It took me by surprise for a second, but then I remembered and took a few photos and happily released it outside and watched it fly away. Such a beautiful little creature. I am happy that my little farm provides some host plants for native butterfly species. Cabbage whites, on the other hand, are a different story 😉

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