Friday, September 2, 2011

Raising Butterflies

This summer, I've had a chance to revisit my childhood of bug collecting. I love bugs. Any and all of them. I'm fascinated by the insect world, the creepier and crawlier the better. As a kid, I had a mayonnaise jar filled with random insects found around the yard. Ask my mother! She swore I'd be a naturalist counting bears with Grizzly Adams in the Rockies. Little did she know all that tree climbing would lead me into horticulture.

With our big butterfly festival at the garden center this August, a bunch of us have been raising caterpillars.  We wanted to have a butterfly release and give the kids the experience of raising butterflies. I have been the proud mama of one monarch and three pipevine swallowtails. Finally, today, the last of them emerged from the chrysalis and fluttered to freedom. The monarch egg came from my own milkweed plants, but the three pipevine swallowtails were collected with permission from The Morton Arboretum.

This has been really an amazing experience. Being able to witness firsthand the transformation of a creature from egg to caterpillar to butterfly really makes you think about the complexities of nature and the compelling drive of life.  If you can, I highly recommend raising a butterfly or two if only to have your wonder of the natural world restored. Besides, they are very very pretty.

This is Millicent the Monarch, freshly hatched.

These are Alphonse, Beatrice, and Cameron munching away on Dutchman's pipe vine.

Millicent chowing down on common milkweed.

Almost full grown swallowtail caterpillar. He formed a chrysalis the next day.

This is not Millicent, but one of the monarchs at work shrugging off its caterpillar skin and becoming a chrysalis.

These are the boys. One was under a leaf at the time, so he's a green chrysalis.

 Beatrice has to be different and attach to the aquarium lid

Millicent surprised us and here she is crawling out of the pickle jar.

Free at last and still pumping up her wings.

Beatrice emerged this morning sometime. She flitted away and landed on the hackberry once I opened the aquarium.

Just for fun - three stages of black swallowtail hanging out in the break room.

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