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.
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.
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.
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.
Within a day, the other monarchs followed suit and their transformations were complete — we had many new monarch butterflies!
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.
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.
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.
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!
What a rewarding and fun project!
See the Monarch Watch website to learn how you can raise and tag butterflies, or build your own Monarch Waystation.