raising monarch butterflies from-eggs life cycle

Raising Monarch Butterflies from Eggs Part 2


monarch crysalidmonarch crysalid

The transformation between caterpillar and crysalid was amazing to watch. The timing also added to the magic.

The 5th instar, had been ravenously eating then suddenly stopped and became very lethargic. I was worried because they can go mouldy and essentially liquify in a day. This however was not the case. After a while he made his way to the lid and attached himself to the bottom. Even though the plastic is very smooth whatever glue and silk he made stuck very well. He actually put silk for about 1 inch around his little button area. I tried to remove this after he had emerged and found that I could not pull it off. I eventually had to scrape it with a stainless steel scrubbie.

It took the caterpillar several hours to attach himself. At that point he is not dangling but hanging on front and back to the lid. I had given him a little branch but he preferred the lid. He then let go of the lid and started dangling, at first mostly curled up but then in a definite j shape. He was dangling by his rear end. At that point he had faded colour a bit and his antenna and other bits were sort of limp.

Once he had reached the full J position, things went very quickly and within an hour or so he had managed to make the bottom of the crysalid. It is not a silk coccoon but rather the monarch has re-used his skin to make the outer shell. He very quickly pushed his black antenna, legs and head parts to the side as he completed the transformation. The black parts fell off the crysalid. At that point the crysalid is light green and feels squishy and leathery.

head parts on the bottom of the container

I attached a thread to the silk button and moved the crysalid to a branch so I could see it better and check on it more easily. It should take about 12 days to transform into a butterfly.

Within a couple of days of each other 3 more caterpillars transformed to crysalids. There might be some sort of timing or synchronizing because they had not all emerged from their eggs in this order and some of the caterpillars were a bit smaller. I lost 2 caterpillars to some sort of rotting.

darkening crysalids hatching

Not much happened for about 10 days then the first of the 4 crysalids started to darken. It was still green but much darker and vague patterns could be seen.

More surprising the other 3 were also darkening. I did not expect them to come out for another 2 days.

dark crysalids

The next morning I woke up to one butterfly stretching it's wings. The other 3 crysalids had gone completely transparent and the folded up butterflies were clearly visible.

Details of one of the crysalids. The Monarch butterfly is within a half hour of emerging.

3 butterfliesorange liquid

A small tear occurs on the side and end and the folded up butterfly sort of slides out of the bottom. This happens very quickly He hangs on to the coccoon and starts unfolding its wings. A sort of orangy brown liquid drips from him. Within about a half hour the wings are mostly spread but still sort of wrinkly looking.

wings openingstill opening wings

I have a nice quiet butterfly bush near the house and placed the first newly emerged Monarch there. He slowly beat his wings and walked around and eventually after about an hour just flew away.

There must be some synchronization between the crysalids because they all came out within a couple of hours even though there was a difference of 2 days between 2 of them.

female monarch on butterfly bush

I put the 3 newly emerged monarch on the butterfly bush and eventually they stiffened their wings and flew off.

That day was very special for me. I released 2 males and 2 female monarch butterflies. (The female have darker lines and the males have thinner lines with a dark spot on the back inner wing.)

If you want to raise monarch butterflies from eggs as I did, you need to establish a few milkweed plants. Or you need access to some plants that are not being sprayed. That's where you will need to look for eggs and will pick leaves to feed your caterpillars.

email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine

Small Print

This information is for general knowledge. Some people are sensitive to milkweed sap and the plants are poisonous to humans and pets in various degrees. Cats are particularly sensitive to poisons so don't let them eat any part of the milkweed plant. BE CAREFUL