Our pet caterpillars

This spring, we bought our first milkweed to create a natural butterfly habitat.  Milkweed is the host plant for monarchs, and ours came with a tiny caterpillar.  Watching the transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to a beautiful butterfly was awesome!!

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This is Day 1.  It got windy at night, so we kept the milkweed plant inside.

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Day 2.  So cute!

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Day 3.

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Day 4.

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Day 5.

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Day 6:  The caterpillar stopped eating and was hanging by its back legs.  In fact, it did not move for several hours, and I thought it was dead.  This turned out to be part of the molting process, and afterward, the caterpillar ate every drop of its old skin.

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Day 7:  On the move again for more food.

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Day 8:  It is over 2.5″ long!  I placed the milkweed in a large collapsible mesh laundry hamper so that when it was ready to pupate, we would have it in a safe container.

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Day 12.

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A few days later, the caterpillar crawled off the plant…

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…to the top of the lid.

Another couple days later, it formed into a “J” shape.  I didn’t take any good pictures of this stage because I didn’t want to unzip the lid and interfere with this magical transformation taking place.

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About 2 weeks later, a beautiful butterfly emerged.

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The two black dots in the lower wings indicate that this butterfly is a male.  We released him in the afternoon.

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This is our second caterpillar.

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This one decided to pupate on the plant, so it was easier to photograph the chrysalis.  The jade coloring is beautiful with gold specks.

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The case becomes clear when the butterfly is ready to emerge.

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This one looks like a female, but I can’t tell with the wings closed.

I found this cool time lapse video showing chrysalis and emerging butterfly.  This one is a male because there are two black dots on the lower part of its wings, at 2.22.  It’s fun identifying monarch gender!