Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Migrating monarchs

My neighbors took in a few monarch caterpillars this fall in the hopes that they could raise them to the butterfly stage.  Lucky me -- I got to witness the last one as it emerged from the chrysalis (it was my "work from home day")! 

The excitement started when we all noticed the monarch was very close to emerging:

(Fun fact:  did you know that the caterpillar basically liquifies in order become an adult butterfly?  They don't just grow wings.)

All we had to do was wait.  First, the adult emerged with its wings still folded and wrinkly.  After a little time (pumping hemolymph into the wings -- this substance brings nutrients to the cells), our boy was ready to fly!

How do we know it's a male?  Check out the little pheromone spot on the lower vein of his wing (the black line that gets a little fatter).

Now he's off to Mexico!  If you've never learned about monarch butterflies and how the eastern North American population takes 5 generations to complete the annual migration, be sure to check out Four Wings and a Prayer by Sue Halpern.  This migration is an incredible feat of nature that's right under our noses!

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