In September, 2009 while getting mulberry leaves for our baby silkworms, Joel found some monarch caterpillars on the milkweed plant in the bush and brought them home. He also saw some small eggs on the plants.
Then, we placed some branches of the milkweed into hanging vases and watched them eat and grow. They ate the leaves, stems and even flowers of the milkweed plant.
Then after a few weeks, after moulting their exoskeleton a few times, the monarch caterpillar hangs upside down in a J shape. They remain like this for about one and a half days and then they form a chrysalis.
That is an amazing process to watch. We captured that process on this video.
It is almost like the caterpillar unzips its exoskeleton from the bottom up and as it wriggles out of it, it forces it to the top, and the green chrysalis is what is underneath.
After a few hours, this green case becomes hard.
The caterpillar remains in this for about 2-3 weeks. When the chyrsalis is almost transparent, you can see the wings of the monarch butterfly and you know that in another day or so, the monarch butterfly will emerge.
Again, a breathtaking moment - truly an incredible sight - I have tried twice to capture this remarkably quick process (a few seconds to break out of the chrysalis - and then the wings expand over 30 minutes or so).
Here is the final video capturing the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis.
The butterfly then remains hanging below the chrysalis for a day or so, stretching its wings and getting ready for its first flight.
The male butterflies have a black dot on the inside of their wings and are slightly larger.
This is something we will definitely enjoy next spring - collecting eggs and watching the process again.