The Amazing Monarch Butterfly

I’d like to take a little detour from talking about bees for a moment to celebrate the occasion of my pet Monarch butterflies eclosing (emerging as adults) today.

Adults have compound eyes and long curled straw-like tongues (proboscis) for drinking nectar.

Brand new butterfly.

Part of the exhibit I created had a section dedicated to the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus. In addition to the following poster, we also had several live Monarch caterpillars, chryalises, and butterflies on display.

monarch poster

After the exhibit concluded, I still had a few live caterpillars and couldn’t find any milkweed plants to put them on outside. So I took them home and held onto them in a terrarium until they pupated.

Here are some photos I took chronicling their development, from caterpillar to butterfly

One of the adults on display. Still looking pretty good after a full day of serving as an education tool.

One of the adults on display. Still looking pretty good after a full day of serving as an education tool.

A late instar larva munching on milkweed.

A late instar larva munching on milkweed.

Between every molt and before pupation, the caterpillars would hang inert for hours at a time.

Between every molt and before pupation, the caterpillars would hang inert for hours at a time.

A caterpillar preparing to molt. I missed the pupation event a few times because the larvae hang like this for hours, but the pupation itself (when the chrysalis is formed) only took a few minutes.

A caterpillar preparing to molt. I missed the pupation event a few times because the larvae hang like this for hours, but the pupation itself (when the chrysalis is formed) only took a few minutes.

Beginning of pupation

Beginning of pupation

Almost there...

Almost there…

Fresh pupa

Fresh pupa

A few minutes later

A few minutes later

Wings begin to form

Wings begin to form

A day or so before the adult butterfly emerges (eclosion), the chrysalis begins to become transparent (the water beads are because it was recommended I spritz the pupae with water a couple times a day to keep them from drying out)

A day or so before the adult butterfly emerges (eclosion), the chrysalis begins to become transparent (the water beads are because it was recommended I spritz the pupae with water a couple times a day to keep them from drying out)

pupa 2

pupa 3

pupa 4

Once the chrysalis becomes completely clear, eclosion will occur very soon.

Once the chrysalis becomes completely clear, eclosion will occur very soon.

pupa 6

The freshly emerged adult is very delicate. It hands upside down pumping hemolymph (bug blood) through the wings as they straighten and harden.

The freshly emerged adult is very delicate. It hands upside down pumping hemolymph (bug blood) through the wings as they straighten and harden.

empty chrysalis

Adults have compound eyes and long curled straw-like tongues (proboscis) for drinking nectar.

Adults have compound eyes and long curled straw-like tongues (proboscis) for drinking nectar.

monarch face top

thoracic closeup

wing 1

Butterfly wings derive their color from many small scales.

Butterfly wings derive their color from many small scales.

Bye, bye, butterfly!

Bye, bye, butterfly!

If you’d like to support Monarch butterflies by planting milkweed plants, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has some good resources at their Project Milkweed website, such as a

5 responses to “The Amazing Monarch Butterfly

  1. Beautify chronicling!

  2. So beautiful! If I may have a copy of these photos – they’ll remind everyone who comes to the cabin how beautiful and important these creatures are!

  3. Absolutely gorgeous! Will now definitely check out the NHM’s butterfly pavilion exhibit!

  4. Pingback: Raising Swallowtails: From Egg to Butterfly | Diadasia

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