As you may remember from my post early this month, we were fortunate to have a monarch mama visit the backyard in May, and lay eggs on our native milkweed plants.
The eggs hatched, developed into little caterpillars that ate, and ate, and ate up the milkweed leaves. Eventually there were only fifteen caterpillars that made it to fifth instar.
One by one they left the milkweed plants, crawling out of the pots in which the plants are growing. I kept searching for the caterpillars or their chrysalises in that area of the yard.
Eventually I found seven of the caterpillars in "j" form, just before turning into chrysalides - one just under the roof overhang, two on different walls on the outside of one of our storage sheds, and three just under the rims of three flower pots.
We discovered another one when it already had eclosed, hanging from the branch of a plant near our bedroom window. And the eighth one, already as a butterfly, hanging from a blade of grass under a bench.
It still remains a mystery if the other seven made it to butterfly stage.
I took the photo above of the lovely monarch female when we discovered her hanging from a shrub branch near our bedroom window. She was drying her wings, and flew away a couple of hours after I took the photo. Although I previously searched thoroughly the area many times, I didn't notice the green chrysalis. She was well camouflaged!
All four of the butterflies emerged in the late morning of very hot day while we were experiencing a heat wave.
It is truly amazing how strong the silk that the caterpillars secrete to weave their anchor silk pads must be. This empty chrysalis is on the side of one of our garden sheds. Below it you can see the dried up metabolic waste material left over from the metamorphosis.
Here is the same chrysalis a few hours before the butterfly emerged.
This female butterfly had formed her chrysalis under the leaf of a poppy plant!
Shortly after I took this photo, she flew away.
This handsome male monarch emerged from its chrysalis that was hanging from the rim of this flower pot. He remained there for many hours until he was good and ready to leave.
This is his metabolic waste that he expelled onto the leaves of a dandelion, while drying his wings.
There are not always happy endings.
The wings of this female monarch were folded.
It is unclear at what point her wings developed like this because we didn't see her when she emerged from her chrysalis, which was on the outside wall of one of the garden sheds.
We just saw her crawling with her folded wings.
Tony held out a stick for her to crawl onto and then let her crawl from the stick to the branch of a shrub. We hoped that it wasn't too late for her to straighten out her wings, but by then the wings apparently were dry.
At one point, when Tony held out his hand to the monarch, she crawled onto it, and then hopped onto his shirt, walking very steadily and quickly up his shirt sleeve. It was very sad to know that even though she was strong, the monarch wouldn't survive because she wouldn't be able to fly.
The difficult decision was made to euthanize the monarch by letting her sit on a paper towel, then carefully placing her in a sealed pouch, into the freezer. There she would fall asleep as her temperature dropped, to eternal rest.