The Making of a Monarch

monarch butterfly

Here in Naples we are blessed with warm temperatures year round. Along with the weather come some other really nice perks including the beautiful nature and wildlife of the everglades. Not to be forgotten amongst the panthers and bears is the beautiful monarch butterfly that we get to see year round.
The monarch butterfly is an important part of our ecosystem. Aside from the beauty the bring us, they help to pollinate our native flora.

Monarch Egg

monarch butterfly egg
“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf”….

Our family has been homeschooling this year and we decided to raise some monarch butterflies for a science project. We purchased some milkweed plants from a local nursery. The milkweed plant is the only one that the monarch butterfly will lay its eggs on and the only plant that the caterpillars will eat.

We set the plants outside for a couple of days so that the local butterflies would have a chance to lay some eggs. It was not long before we got our first monarch eggs.

Monarch Caterpillars

monarch caterpillars on milkweed
“One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.”

Okay, I’m not sure it was actually a Sunday that we got our caterpillars but they were very hungry indeed! It really gave new meaning to the Eric Carle book, watching the process in real life. We kept having to go get new milkweeds because these little guys ate us out of house and home. We originally started with 13 caterpillars and they ate through four of the most heavily leafed plants we could get.

caterpillar of a monarch butterfly
caterpillar and ant
“Now he wasn’t hungry anymore – and he wasn’t a little caterpillar anymore. He was a BIG, FAT, caterpillar.”small monarch caterpillar monarch caterpillar school project monarch butterfly caterpillars school project monarch butterfly caterpillars on leaf monarch butterfly caterpillars monarch butterfly caterpillars caterpillars of the monarch butterfly

Monarch Chrysalis

“He built a small house, called a cocoon, around himself. He stayed inside for more than two weeks”…

After about a week and a half and many, many leaves (but no chocolate cake, ice cream or salami) our caterpillars were ready for their metamorphosis.
monarch butterfly forming chrysalis monarch forming chrysalis
We got many chrysalides but unfortunately one night a small predator got onto our lanai – we suspect a mouse – and ate all but two. As disappointing as this was we had a second round of caterpillars from all those extra plants we had to buy!

For the second batch we were used extra care in safe guarding them and sealed up all possible points of entry from our miniature intruder.
monarch butterfly chrysalis chrysalis monarch butterfly

A Butterfly Emerges

“Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and”…

After about another week and a half our chrysalides began to look a little different. They became transparent and we knew it was time to grab the camera because we were about to have some butterflies!
monarch butterfly in chrysalis

“…He was a beautiful butterfly!”
monarch emerging monarch wing spread school project monarch butterfly butterfly monarch monarch butterfly school project monarch butterfly wings closed monarch school project holding monarch butterfly monarch butterfly
Overall we had a wonderful time with this project and learned a lot! For another fun idea for kids here in Southwest Florida, check out my post on Springtime Farms.

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