Every summer, Chris' mom (Nana) and aunts have butterfly boxes that they put Monarch caterpillars into until they form their chrysalis and become butterflies. This year, Nana wasn't interested in the whole process and she passed her box on to us.
The box is beautiful and was handmade by Chris' Uncle Jimmy, who happens to be a cabinet maker. It came to us a few weeks ago containing 8 caterpillars of various sizes and 2 vases of milkweed for them to eat. We now have only 1 caterpillar left! We have 6 chrysalis in various stages and we released our first 2 butterflies, one yesterday and one this morning.
The whole process is quite amazing to watch, although I keep missing certain parts. I swear the caterpillars act as soon as they know I'm not there!
The caterpillars start out very tiny, only centimeters long,
but they eat, eat, eat
and poop, poop, poop
and are soon about the size of my finger.
When they're ready to become a chrysalis, they first hang in a "J" from the top of the box (in the wild, this is typically done on the bottom of a leaf to protect them from the weather). This is the part I keep missing! I witnessed all of our 7 caterpillars while they were hanging out on the top of the box getting ready to "J" but I never actually got to see them drop into the "J." One of them literally did it as soon as I walked away from the box for 5 minutes! *sigh* I have one more chance and I have my fingers crossed.
Once the caterpillar becomes a "J", the molting process begins pretty quickly and within 24 hours, the caterpillar is a chrysalis. After that, we wait about 10 days for the caterpillar to finish its metamorphosis into a butterfly. The butterfly has to dry its wings out for a bit and then we release him into the wild!
The tradition in the family is to name the butterflies before they are released and the name needs to match the sex of the butterfly. (The males have 2 black dots on their wings, the females do not.) Our first 2 butterflies have been males and were named by Charlie.
This was Cloud:
And this was Red Airplane: