Thursday, September 15, 2011


From the net. My picture is out of focus. This a more mature chrysalis as it becomes more transparent closer to hatching. The early chrysalis is more bright green. We saw them of different ages but none this advanced.
It is a cool, sunny autumn day here. I went to a nursery with a friend. A salvia plant was covered with monarch chrysalises. The jade green case has shiny gold dots on the top ridge.It is amazing to see this. Alas I only had a camera phone which I couldn't see to focus due to the bright sun. The monarch caterpillar feeds solely on milkweed which is loaded with oxalic acid, very bitter and poisonous to birds. We saw some of the caterpillars too; large with yellow, black and orange stripes on them.As they are so easy to spot by humans and potential predators (birds), they must have a back-up plan to survive: bad taste.I assumed they would make  the chrysalis on the same plant they feed on but no, they crawl to a different plant. Maybe better cover? The adult form will emerge in the next few days and then fly away to Central Mexico.

The plant that they feed on has always fascinated me: the milkweed. The most common form can be fifteen feet tall covered with 6-8 inch long seed pods. This year has been especially good for them as the milkweed by the river is enormous. For cheap thrills, I used to break open the ripe pods in front of the kids so they would be amazed at the hundreds of silky parachutes emerging. The milkweed at the specialty Michigan perennial store was barely recognizable. This variety had tiny pods and they had let the Monarchs strip the leaves. I assume this variety was selected for its flowers, long past bloom.
My attempt to photograph the caterpillar but sadly I missed the target as it was too bright  to see the screen
And the poor phone camera couldn't figure out what I was focusing on. The gold dots,not the leaves silly camera!


Cheryl said...

Love this story Sue. The farm is loaded with milkweeds that grow wild and the garden filled with plants that feed butterflies. All remind me of my angel child. Now that spring has sprung it is time to check the process.

Debbi said...

This brought back memories of being a child and having these in school.
Thank you

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

Monarchs in Australia? This set me up for a search Cheryl of their range and sure enough, the far southeast edge of Australia was shown which must include your farm. But it is almost fall here in our hemisphere. Would it be too soon to find them in Australia? And they must have shortened migrations there..

Cheryl said...

Sue, thanks for your response. There appeared to be no butterflies here when we began building. After Jeremy's accident, I anticipated the arrival of a beautiful purple butterfly as he is an Indigo child. Lo and behold we got not one, but two monarchs; one for Jezz and another for his dog that was put to sleep, remains cremated. They were almost real in the way they would follow Haydn when he left the farm house each morning on the tractor. He was fascinated by their antics, especially when they followed him back later in the day.
It is not too early for them here; we have many varieties now as we have selectively planted to attract them.


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