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01 Sep

After nearly one and one-half million Facebook views on all the videos I posted during the first seventeen days of August showing the transformation of monarch butterflies, I am astounded that I was one of two of us who got to see that happen right in front of our eyes for the very first time in our lives!  But even more than that, a huge majority of those who commented wrote they never witnessed that before either.  So how does that transformation even happen?   I needed to find that out for myself.

There are four generations of Monarch butterflies each year and each one completes four unique stages within their own life cycle.  The stages are the egg, the larvae (caterpillar), the pupa (chrysalis) and the adult butterfly.  In February and March, the generation that hibernated in central Mexico or southern California awaken to find a mate.  They migrate north and east, looking for milkweed on which they lay their eggs.  This begins stage one of the first generation of the new year.

They lay their eggs on milkweed plants during March and April and four days later, the eggs hatch into baby caterpillars.  The babies eat only milkweed leaves and gain about 2700 times their original weight (www.monarch-butterfly.com).  Within two weeks, the caterpillar is fully grown, loses interest in food and wanders around looking for a place to attach so it can start the metamorphosis stage.  It attaches itself to the underside of a leaf or stem by spinning a little silk pad.  The caterpillar then turns around, grabs that silk pad with its hind legs, hangs down and begins to change it’s form

During the pupa (chrysalis) stage, the caterpillar tissue is digested by enzymes and is converted into a rich culture medium.  Inside the caterpillar are several sets of little cells, called “imaginal disks” that are different body parts or embryonic cells (www.learner.org/monarchbutterfly).  Inside the chrysalis, the imaginal disks grow rapidly becoming a wing or a leg or an antenna and all other organs of the adult butterfly.  Within 10 to 14 days, the monarch butterfly will emerge, fly away, feed on flower nectar and enjoy the remaining two to six weeks of it’s life.  The females will die after they lay their eggs on milkweed for generation number two to begin the process all over again. 

The second and third generations go through exactly the same four stages, dying two to six weeks after becoming a butterfly.  The fourth generation born in late August into September and even October are the ones that migrate to warmer climates.  They live six to eight months and fly north and east in the spring, starting the astounding process all over again.  

I invite you now to watch the edited video (produced by our grandson) attached below of the entire transformation process that my husband and I were able to witness as it happened.  It is astounding indeed!

 

 


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