Monday, December 15, 2014

two boys

it's been getting colder during the days now, and really chilly at night... but i still have 14 chrysalis waiting to emerge.

i brought the 'castle' inside to keep them warm, and help them along.

this morning i released two beautiful boys.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

back to life

i saw the most amazing thing this morning...

i woke up and was cleaning out the castle and getting fresh milkweed for my caterpillars.

i have my milkweed leaf stalks in jars of water to keep them fresh. then i saw that this poor little guy had fallen in the water - and he had drowned... so sad.

i remembered i had just read something about this...

put the caterpillar on a pile of salt.

i did that... and i was amazed when a few minutes later he started moving. then started walking around !

okay ! it worked !!

when a caterpillar falls in water, it's spiracles close over and the caterpillar goes into a state of torpor. the salt draws any water out of the spiracles and trachea.


Friday, September 12, 2014


thirty one hungry mouths to feed. never had this many.

they are 2nd instars - less than a 1/4" long now. they will grow 3000 times their size before becoming a chrysalis.

Monday, September 8, 2014

hello world...

first born in this batch.

i have 34 eggs right now.

it's going to be crazy once they all start hatching !

Saturday, September 6, 2014

more eggs

found more eggs out in garden today.

i have to get a butterfly net... not for butterflies... for wasps. i see them out there all over the milkweed. they are eating the eggs.

i collected these few eggs - but i know there are more out there - i just can't find them. she was out there for quite a while fluttering around laying eggs.

i'm having a bit of a dilemma as far as having to kill the wasps...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


what a happy little fella i stumbled upon in the garden tonight.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

first flight

enjoying a hawaiian punch soaked cotton ball before she takes her first flight.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

14kt gold and jade

the monarch chrysalis is so beautiful. chrysalis is a greek word meaning golden crown.

here are a few reasons for the gold dots...

camouflage - they reflect colors of the surroundings and break up the shape of the chrysalis

warning  - somehow the coloration would fend off predators

protection - they filter particular wavelengths of light which might be harmful to the monarchs

nothing - no function, but just the result of something else in the cuticle

the more i read, it seems to be, that they are points of entry for air entering the chrysalis.

whatever the reason for them... they look like 14kt gold and jade to me... just a beautiful jewel.

Friday, August 22, 2014


the transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis is amazing.

the first change is the tentacles will start to shrivel up. the caterpillar is hanging in j position, pumping their body. their skin will start to shrivel up too. there is a green tinge to their body.

and then the skin splits.

it starts at the back of the head and moves up the caterpillars back. the caterpillar is twisting and turning, trying to release itself from it's old skin. it becomes more and more shriveled up as it wriggles free. it even sheds all its facial features.

the 4th picture down is the most fascinating to me. since it was attached to the silk pad with its back legs - and it won't have them soon - a little stick, called a cremaster - pokes out from inside it's body. the cremaster searches for the silk pad and attaches itself to the pad. after it has done this, it can then fully release all of it's old body parts. this is so important because if it does not attach to the pad properly, it would fall to the ground and die, since at this point, it is very delicate - it's a suspended bag of fluid. i had never seen this happen before - but i was looking for it this time... and sure enough - there it was. the cremaster.

he will then twist and turn until all of the old skin drops off, readjusting to it's new body form.

and then it starts... the end of life as a caterpillar, and the beginning of the third stage of life - the chrysalis.

this all happens in a few minutes.

hanging around

once they are ready to become a chrysalis, they crawl up to a safe place and hang motionless in 'j position' for about a day. they climb to the top of the castle and attach themselves with hooks that on are their back legs to a silk pad.

out in the wild it could be up to 40 feet away from the milkweed they were feeding on.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


one of my caterpillars died.

of the 10 i was raising - three of them are already chrysalis - three have climbed up the castle and will probably go in 'j position' by tomorrow - and three are in their 5th instar and will probably climb up by tomorrow too.

then there was the little guy... he wasn't growing. he was still in his 3rd instar although they were all born a day or so apart.

i kept watching him - wondering why he wasn't growing... i was rooting for him...

i guess they aren't all going to make it - as sad as that is. i am grateful for the other nine healthy ones.

i have had a few other deaths. i have a spot in the garden, marked by a little crystal, where i bury them. i put some fresh verbena there for him... for the butterfly he would have been.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


the little holes on the side of a caterpillar, and butterflies, are called spiracles. they breathe through these holes. the spiracles are connected to a network of airtubes that carry oxygen through their bodies.

click on any picture to enlarge it 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

good morning

beautiful day in sunny southern california.

rise and shine and eat some milkweed.

Friday, August 15, 2014

moving out

i got all the babies moved out of the 'nursery' and outside into their 'castle'.

they all seem to be adjusting well... although it is a little harder to keep track of them now. the smaller ones like to hide out under and in between leaves.

i got a picture of this guy right after he molted. you can see his old skin behind him.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

day four

today is day four for these little guys.

they are now in their 2nd instar. they are still so tiny. about 1/4" long. their tentacles have grown... and their bright yellow, black and white stripes are visible.

i am caring for 10 babies right now - and they are definitely becoming way more active and curious.

i will keep them inside for a few more days before i transfer them outside to live in their 'caterpillar castle'.

they will be caterpillars for about 14 days.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


well... look who i found creeping around my backyard this morning  :)

as a caterpillar grows, it molts it's skin 5 times before it becomes a chrysalis. each stage of growth is called an 'instar' -  1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th instar.

this guy seems to already be in his 5th instar - he must be pretty stealth to go unnoticed for so long.

Monday, August 11, 2014

day two

 ... eating and pooping. i can already see the stripes.

the two horns on the top of his head, and near his end, are the beginning growth of the tentacles.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

just born

the eggs are ready to hatch. when she first lays them, they are pale yellow. in about 4 days, they get a small black dot on the top of them - this is the caterpillars head. the little caterpillar will eat a hole through its egg shell and crawl out.

when they are born, they are less than 1/8" long. their first meal will be their egg shell.

you can see the how small they are when born in this picture

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

egg hunt

i found six eggs yesterday. they are so small - and she hides them really well !

i cut off the leaf the egg is on and place it on a moist paper towel. this is to avoid potential predators, such as ants, wasps or spiders, from eating the eggs.

in about 4-5 days they will hatch.

today, there were two more females out there laying eggs.

in the meantime... i'll go out in the garden and look for more eggs.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

future babies

all was quiet for a month. i saw a few monarchs passing through. but today this lady fluttered around for about an hour. i sat quietly and watched her as she drank nectar and went from leaf to leaf laying eggs. it was the first time i got to see this happening. first, i identified her as a female. then i could see her land on a leaf, and tuck her abdomen on the underside of the leaf as she deposited her eggs. she will deposit about one hundred eggs.

monarch butterflies use a combination of visual and chemical cues to find milkweed. once they land on a plant, they use sensory organs on their feet and heads to tell them if it is a milkweed, and the quality of the milkweed. she must have liked my milkweed.

i will now go out and go on a monarch egg hunt  :)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

empty nest

i just watched my last girl fly away.

on may 26th - i had 7 girls, 2 boys, and 2 unknown

on june 9th - i had 10 girls and 3 boys

on july 3rd - i had (again) 10 girls and 3 boys

so as of today, i have raised and released:

27 girls
8 boys
2 unknown

37 beautiful monarch butterflies

interesting that there are so many more girls than boys. i wonder if this is common ?

i also had 5 deaths (sad)... and 3 escapees :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014


i have been waiting to see this. the monarch butterfly emergence, or eclosion, from the chrysalis.

this morning i got to watch 3 of them emerge.

i did not get my camera in time to get him actually pushing out of the chrysalis - but got these pictures immediately after he slipped free.

when they first emerge from the chrysalis, their wings are tiny and wrinkled. their abdomen is swollen and full of liquid. they pump liquid from their abdomen into their wings.

a few minutes later the wings are fully expanded - but they are soft and vulnerable. they hang vertically for a few hours until their wings are hardened and this butterfly is ready to fly !

so far... i have 3 girls and 1 boy. i have 9 chrysalis left.

this is their fourth, and last, stage of life... the butterfly.

baby birds

everything is alive in the garden... even the baby birds are hatching now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


i ended up with 14 caterpillars this round. i have a few left hanging in 'j position' and the rest are already a chrysalis.

i had a terrible fatality - something i hadn't seen before - one of the caterpillars fell half way through becoming a chrysalis. i don't know why... maybe he did not attach himself securely. it was very sad.

so in a 10-14 days i will start releasing 13 beautiful monarch butterflies.

this is their third stage of life... the chrysalis, or pupa.