Friday, May 4, 2012

Monarch Catepillar Adventures

The kids and I met up with some friends at a local park and spent about 2 hours(maybe a little less) hunting monarch caterpillars. We were all so into the hunt, each time one of us found a catepillar or chrysalis, we would shout with excitement! Our painted lady experience fired us up about raising butterflies. Little did we know the level of adventure we were in store for.
Our catch of monarch caterpillar's and a few already in chrysalis.

As the days went by we were able to see one by one the monarch caterpillars climb to the top and begin the chrysalis process. It was quite a sight. I am thankful most all the ones we caught were pretty much ready to chrysalis because keeping milkweed in the freezer for days on end isn't ideal for moi.
Where the learning began for us in this experience is when my friend Wendy warned me of monarch parasites. OHHHHH NOOOO! WHAT!?

Parasitoids are parasitic insects such as small flies and wasps that lay eggs on other insects. These special parasites only live on a single host, eventually killing it. Parasitoid larvae eat their host from the inside out, usually emerging from the remains of the host as a pupa or adult.  

Needless to say, we sure did see several monarch caterpillars die, and even the little maggots come out of the dead caterpillar carcass. *gag* Talk about super disgusting.
AND we even saw an outburst of fly babies come out of a few of the already chrysalis. They stayed outside for a few days. I could not bring them inside after that. Over a few days those chrysalis were wind blown all over the porch, as those little fly babies flew out to go infect more victims.

 I was ready to give up by then and throw them all out into the yard, when I saw this... 

A few had survived! We were hours away from actually seeing a monarch butterfly emerge. Back in the house they came, we waited excitedly, and patiently for the hatch!


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