Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Butterfly update.

Butterfly season is almost over now that winter is approaching. The last of the monarchs are emerging and heading south on their journey to overwinter in Mexico. You can track their journey here at the Monarch migration tracking project Lots of good info on the site.

This morning we woke to this. One of our three remaining Monarch chrysalis had turned completely transparent, the pattern of the butterfly's wings visible underneath. We knew that the butterfly was about to emerge.

i have somehow managed to miss the emerging with almost every one of our butterflies this summer. We watch and wait, and the minute i walk away, to let the dogs out, or go outside to feed the goats and chickens, i come in to find a butterfly hanging upside down already drying it's wings.

We had a second chrysalis darken, but instead of turning transparent it turned black and brown and took on this 'sunken' look. This chrysalis is dead. The caterpillar may have been diseased or the victim of a parasite. i was expecting to see Tachnid Fly larva hatch out of this one, like we experienced last year, but it never did. The chrysalis just died.
In the wild, Monarchs have many predators,and often fall victim to parasites and disease. The survival rate is very low, only 1 out of every 10 caterpillars make it to adulthood. So having only one die out of about 20+ that we raised is really quite good. Unfortunately death is part of the lifecycle too.

We have one remaining chrysalis that is still green and appears healthy. The butterfly should emerge in the next few days. This will be our last monarch to release.

We still have our Eastern Tiger swallowtail chrysalis. i moved him from the newspaper to this stick, so he is in a better position to emerge. i am beginning to suspect that he will be overwintering in his chrysalis and we will have to wait until next spring to release him.

We released our monarch after it's wings had some time to dry. This is one of the best parts about raising butterflies, getting to re-release them back into the environment. Monarchs have a unique way of flying. Many butterflies just flap there wings and move from place to place, flower to flower. Monarchs seem to soar, and coast and truly enjoy flying. They remind me of the seagull in the book Jonathon Livingston Seagull. They seem to fly with a passion and a beauty that other butterflies lack.

After releasing our butterfly, he soared in circles above our heads as if he was just as amazed by the new wings and his ability to fly. Eventually he found our flowers, and spent the afternoon hanging around eating and gathering energy for his long flight.

As always, i feel so incredibly blessed to get to experience this with my children. No matter how many times we watch the butterflies emerge it always seems so magical.


  1. awesome pictures as usual! I love the one with Sage holding the monarch :o)

  2. Lovely, amazing! Should be required reading/viewing in schools.

  3. Lovely, amazing! Should be required reading/viewing in schools.

  4. Always love looking at your pictures! Sage is one with mother nature and you can tell how much she loves it! Thanks for sharing keep them coming :)