RSS readers – hop on over – the pictures on the site are unlike any you’ll see anyplace else. This is momentous stuff!
So while our Big Boy is eating (why I assume a male gender for these caterpillars, I don’t know) … and eating … and eating, our Little Boy is getting big. You can see Mark’s thumbnail (it’s not a giant thumb, just a regular sized one) as a point of comparison.
Big Boy is eating the heads of the flower-buds, which we’ve not provided for lunch before this. It’s an interesting thing and seems to have produced some of his massive growth. In past years, we simply cut leaves and put them in the container with the caterpillars. There are always circumstances that change and things you cannot control (heat, humidity, etc.) which might affect a growth trajectory, but my hunch is that the flower buds make a difference.
And then it happened. Yesterday morning, Mark said, “Oh, we’re headed to chrysalis!” I came over and looked – sure enough! Monarch caterpillars only hit this “J”-shape for one reason – to rest and begin chrysalis. I couldn’t remember how long it took our last batch to form their chrysalis, just that it happened when we weren’t watching – or couldn’t watch (i.e., overnight).
Later yesterday morning, I went to the kitchen (where this science experiment lives) to make Brendan’s lunch. I looked at the container to see the strangest thing … our Big Boy had a blob of green on him. I grabbed the camera to document, and lo & behold … he formed his chrysalis right before our eyes. I hollered for Brendan and this is what we saw – shot at about 10 second intervals.
from left to right, you can see the chrysalis forming and climbing up its body, ring by ring.
A little more now ….
As the chrysalis closed in over his body, Big Boy looked a little uncomfortable to me. I wasn’t quite sure how he would get his legs and antennae in the chrysalis as he finished making it, but then I realized ….
… it wasn’t his legs & antennae, it was a skin that he shed. I’d forgotten that as they grow, monarch caterpillars shed their skins. Apparently, Big Boy decided that he could do that once & for all when he formed his chrysalis, and so as it fell off (when the chrysalis closed at the top), I realized what was going on.
It’s cramped quarters in there and even now, his chrysalis is undergoing changes. But this is, by far, one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed. Amazing.