Monarchs are GO! (Raising Monarchs, Part II)

I cannot believe this is my first time witnessing this! Watching a monarch butterfly go from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly has to be one of the most enchanting, most mesmerizing things I’ve ever seen. How did I survive 43 years without being remotely aware this was happening?

This is one of the things I love about gardening. My personal gardening journey has not just been about growing food but all the things I learn along the way. In this case, reading about organic pest control options led me to learn more about the disappearing monarch population, which is generally considered to be a result of chemical weed control which either kills milkweed, the caterpillars’ only food source, or leaves it coated in poison, killing the caterpillars as they eat. Not cool.

Monarch laying an egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf
Monarch laying an egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf

I decided to try and help the migrating monarchs by planting untreated milkweed from the local organic nursery and I was pleasantly surprised. For one, milkweed is prettier than it sounds and two, the plants already had monarch eggs on them! Within a week I had an abundance of caterpillars. And aphids. Oh well, at least I knew my plants were free of chemicals.

Anyway, I blabbed about caterpillars in last week’s post and although it’s weird to keep bringing insects to a party, I thought you all might enjoy seeing how the drama unfolded (literally, haha). And so here it is, my offering for Fiesta Friday 22 ~

Open Scene, my kitchen window, 9 a.m.:
Last night the chrysalis had turned very dark. This morning I could see why – there’s a butterfly in there! Can you see the spots and colors? Those are butterfly wings! I am trying SO HARD to resist using the word amazeballs right now.

monarch butterfly chrysalis about to hatch
The monarch chrysalis turns very dark right before hatching. You can clearly see the colors and patterns of the butterfly wings.

Now see the edge where the ‘gold leaf’ was crossing the chrysalis and how it has started to separate? I figured that had to be a sign it could hatch at any moment. I was determined not to miss the split second when the exoskeleton popped open and the butterfly emerged, but if course I looked away for ONE MILLISECOND and suddenly it was done! Poof!

Monarch just hatched. It is hanging from the remains of the chrysalis.
Monarch just hatched and is hanging from the remains of the chrysalis.

Jon and I spent the next hour watching it spin itself to dry its wings. Instinct in action is a pretty cool thing to witness:

Eventually after lots of spinning it started stretching its new wings. It detached itself gingerly from its spent chrysalis and held on to the cheesecloth while it continued to stretch.

imageOnce we felt that it was starting to get antsy we carefully pulled back the cheesecloth.

Releasing the monarch
Releasing the monarch

The gorgeous creature flew off almost immediately and found a nice spot to hang out while it continued to gather strength. We spent a while just chillin’ together contemplating the wonder of nature. Well, I think that’s what it was doing. I know I was.

monarch hatchling newly released
My new BFF

At the suggestion of my friend Robin’s adorably kooky daughter Bella, the butterfly has been christened Sarah Cookie Baker (should that be hyphenated?). She must have known I was bringing her to a party attended by loads of talented pastry chefs!

I hope you all have enjoyed watching this process with me, a process I honestly would never have believed if I hadn’t seen it myself. Please tune in tomorrow – I have a sneaking suspicion that Sarah’s brother Pete Pie Maker will be joining us.

chrysalis2

~~~~~~~~~~~~ END POST ~~~~~~~~~~~~

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33 Comments Add yours

  1. Just so cool, Sheri! I found one Monarch chrysalis on my butterfly weed “Cinderella” last year, but didn’t see the transformation or metamorphosis. Is that the scientific term? And I usually find swallowtail caterpillars in my fennels, but not this year. I think the butterflies are not liking my garden anymore. Boohoo. At least you shared yours with us. Thanks! 🙂

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Aww maybe the swallowtails just haven’t made it to you yet. I don’t have any either and I can’t wait to see some! They’re the cutest of all I think. This metamorphosis (yes, I believe that’s the word) put my swallowtails to shame though, I must admit. Glad you enjoyed my party treat 😉

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  2. Hilda says:

    What a great idea to bring to a party. Thanks for sharing. With my hundreds of milkweed plants – all untreated – I have yet to see any sign of butterflies but am still hoping. Maybe they haven’t made it this far north (E. Ontario) yet.

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thanks Hilda! We’ve just had them here in San Diego about a month so hopefully you’ll see them soon. I’m trying to feed them well for the trip. I look forward to seeing pics of yours 🙂 sheri

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  3. Lucy and Jerry says:

    We love your blog!!! It’s so delightfully informative. And the pictures are wonderful !!! You are a natural!
    And the butterflies… I think we all joined in celebrating their glorious birth!!!

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thanks you guys! Aren’t those monarchs incredible? I have discovered through blogging that I love sharing information so I’m glad you enjoyed that aspect. Too bad I don’t enjoy teaching! I’m so happy you visited. Hope to see you again soon 🙂 sheri

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  4. Lori says:

    Wow that is amazing Sheri! I loved the video! I’m so glad you shared this post!!

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thanks Lori! So happy you watched and enjoyed it. My first time posting a video too so I’m glad it worked 😉

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  5. Hi Sheri, what a beautiful post, highlighting the true wonder of nature, thank you so much for sharing this and bringing it to Fiesta Friday ☺️ Have a great weekend and hi to Sarah

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thank you Elaine, I will pass along your message to Sarah. Thanks for hosting FF, always nice to see you here 🙂 btw, I tried to make little nutty protein balls and let me just say you make it look so easy! What a mess LOL.

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      1. Oh dear, what happened??

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          Haha, well, I don’t do recipes well so I tried to wing it and ended up with some crunchy, nutty, very sticky blobs 🙂

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          1. I bet that was still tasty though??

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            1. Sheri Fox says:

              Yes! And filling. After licking my hands clean I was stuffed for hours 😉

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              1. I know that one!!! 😉

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  6. Just beautiful – what a sight to see! I remember when I was very young I brought a cocoon inside and put it in my desk. On a Sunday morning while getting ready for church it hatched and there were a million praying mantises everywhere – my dad was not very happy 🙂

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      LOL! That’s hilarious! What a shock that must have been. Not nearly so nice as a million monarchs, though even that would be a bit overwhelming. Thanks for the laugh 🙂 sheri

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  7. ivyon says:

    amazing! I am so happy that I clicked on your entry… Now I want to watch “my own” butterflies 😀

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      I recommend it! Last year I had swallowtail caterpillars and they were equally adorable, though the monarch hatching beats all for drama points.

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      1. ivyon says:

        Hahahaha 😀 I just have to find out what kind of butterflies hatch here (Croatia) and what do their caterpillars eat, and then find my own garden… Since I live in an apartment I think this will have to wait 😦

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          You got me curious so I did some googling, turns out Croatia is a butterfly lover’s paradise! There are hundreds of species, especially near the rivers and mountains. Sounds like a lovely country. You might have a point though… not sure they hang out downtown much. Too bad 😦

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          1. ivyon says:

            Yay for me (al least something 😉 )
            Today a beautiful butterfly landed on my head when I tried to photograph him haha
            Thank you for complimenting my country, I will pass on the compliments 😀 I love everything my country offers from point of nature because it is really something, Croatia is on every list “To visit” on various lists in international media, specially Dubrovnik because Game of Thrones is filmed there. But, even before it is very popular. Beyonce named her baby Blue Ivy by a tree she and Jay Z saw on their walk in Hvar, Croatian island, and they made a video about it. I like that people recognize the beauty, but I hope not all of them come at the same time 😀 For the economy, politics and prosperity I am not that enthusiastic (more to say – I don’t watch the news to not get irritated)

            My boyfriend lives just out of town in a more rural area, so if I’m going to make this happen, I will do it there. And I will definitely make posts about it… I think that would be something for next year…

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            1. Sheri Fox says:

              I look forward to seeing pics of your garden when you have a chance to plant it 😉 Maybe some day I will get to visit Croatia. Now that I know the butterflies are so friendly I’m moving it the top of my list! Lol. As for the economy and politics… ugh, I’d much rather think about the garden. ~

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              1. ivyon says:

                Hehehe 😀 Until you do, you will have my photos of butterflies (hopefully) 🙂 and scenery here in the capital city and surrounding area…
                Yes, I would talk about garden rather as well XD

                Like

  8. chefjulianna says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this miracle of nature with us, Sheri! I just think it is so cool that you can attract them to your yard and watch the show! WOW! 😀

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      My pleasure! I love sharing all the crazy things I’m learning these days. So nice to have an appreciative audience! Can’t wait to see what weird thing pops up next 😉

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  9. Pat Sherwood says:

    So enjoy this blog. I don’t have a garden and have a ‘brown’ thumb, so love seeing what you are going through and creating. Recipes look delicious as well. Of course, no bbq, but I think most can be adapted for the oven. Thanks, Sheri.

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Hey Pat, so nice to see you here! Believe it or not I have a brown thumb too. I kill mostly indoor plants though, and I also have lots of not-so-great gardening moments. And yes you can definitely make any of my ‘recipes’ in the oven or on the stovetop. (Have to put recipes in quotes since I don’t offer much by way of measurements). Keep an eye on my next post about peppers… you might see something familiar 🙂

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  10. Eliza Waters says:

    So awesome, thanks so much for sharing this process. I’ve blogged about the decline in monarchs and organized a monarch garden at our school this spring, but sadly, at least in my neck of MA, there have been no sightings that I know of. I’ve been reading of sightings in MN & CA, and yours, which are heartening. Long live the King! 🙂

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Hi Eliza! Glad you found me and my exciting monarch experiment! I’m sorry the monarchs haven’t arrived in MA yet. I’ve heard the same but I’m hoping they’re just running late. I’m churning out as many as I can, though I guess mine will head north, probably not east. I’ll visit your blog and see what else I can learn! Sheri

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      1. Eliza Waters says:

        Thanks, Sheri. I was looking into ordering some online to start a colony imprinted to this area. I wonder if it would make much of a difference, but at least it would make me FEEL like I was making a difference 😉

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          It couldn’t hurt! The more the merrier anyway, and it’s such an amazing process to watch. The entertainment value alone is priceless 🙂

          Like

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