Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Half-Metamorphosis of a Monarch

So would that technically make my caterpillars Dukes, or would it be a lesser noble, like a Knight?  I must say, despite my short immersion in the Medieval Times, my knowledge of the nobility's hierarchy is slim.
In either case, as a homeschool science project, we decided to learn about Monarch Butterflies.  Monarchs, as you may know have something in common with my children in that they are very picky eaters.  They (the Monarchs, not my children, hopefully) eat only milkweed leaves and their egggs are laid on the leaves, usually one egg per leaf.

The kids and I went on an expedition for milkweed leaves and manged to find quite a few with tiny eggs on them.  We watched the eggs for a few days, until the eggs hatched and out came teeny tiny caterpillars.

Wow, could those things eat!  It seemed like over night the minuscule creepy crawlies were teen-aged caterpillars, complete with bad B.O. and a penchant for borrowing the car.  The size of the frass (poop) that came out of them was astonishing.  I called my Mum, the scientist, just to make sure it actually was frass and not some other animal that suddenly appeared in our caterpillar environment.

Every day the kids had to provide fresh leaves for their caterpillars.  This turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated, as the milkweed leaves dried very quickly once I removed them from the refrigerator.

Sadly, despite our best efforts, none of the little critters made it to the chrysalis stage of their development.  Our resident anarchist and Monarch Masher kept "playing" with the caterpillars until one morning I found the very last caterpillar's remains pasted onto the kitchen floor.

(I can accurately describe Monarch caterpillar innards as being smooshy and a vivid green.  This knowledge comes from much experience with the aforementioned Monarch innards.)

Oh, this was another type of caterpillar that we found that seemed to enjoy Queen Anne's Lace flowers.  I never did get around to identifying them (they sadly went the way of the Monarchs), so if you have any idea what type of caterpillar it was that we managed to kill, I'd love to know.


Ellen said...

Oh that was very interesting. I almost wanted to put it on my blog but I was afraid that parents who read it would be horrified at the "kill rate" of your caterpillars!