In December 2010 we noticed an unusual plant in the garden. It looked like a weed, yet was unlike any I recognised. My sister-in-law was visiting at the time and advised us just to pull it out, but I thought I’d wait until it got bigger to try to identify it.
Some time later, we saw a monarch caterpillar on the plant and realised it was a swan plant. More caterpillars arrived and it was quickly getting eaten. A member of our camera club is a bit of an expert on monarch butterflies and has a garden full of swan plants, so we asked for her help – she ‘adopted’ several caterpillars which were rapidly running out of food at our place, and then gave us some small plants and seed to grow our own garden.
John built a special stand to attach any chrysalises which needed rescuing – because some of them build in less than sensible places and we have had some wild weather at times. The stand holds eight chrysalises and we did have it full once this year. Currently we have about 20 chrysalises outside, mostly attached to the swan plants which have grown much bigger over the last year. Occasionally when we know the weather is going to be rough and there is a butterfly about to hatch we will bring it inside for a day or two, then let it out to fly away when the weather has improved. Any longer than that and we would have to feed it.
We have occasionally brought a caterpillar inside when it was ‘going walkabout’ looking for a place to make a chrysalis, but this is not always successful, and I’ve decided its better to leave them to their own devices as much as possible, even though they sometimes make bad choices and don’t survive.
There are some great resources on the internet including videos of a caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and a butterfly emerging from it’s chrysalis. Over the last 18months we have now seen this for ourselves. What an amazing process, how could I not believe in a Creator? When you realise it takes about two weeks from egg to caterpillar, two weeks from caterpillar to chrysalis and a further two weeks until the butterfly emerges (and the creature is totally changed during that time) – and this all slows down as the weather cools – and they have to contend with predators such as wasps and praying mantises as well, it makes you really appreciate it when they make it to the butterfly stage. Sadly we had to euthanise a butterfly for the first time this week. It had emerged while we were away for the day, and its wings hadn’t formed properly so it was unable to fly.
Research is taking place nationally to find out where the monarch butterflies go during the colder months, and to this end people have been tagging them. We are considering doing this next year.
Yesterday was Mothers Day. I shared lunch with my husband, parents, and my sister and her two children and we talked briefly about motherhood. When do you become a mother? When you’re pregnant (with the promise of things to come)? Or are you not really a mother until you can hold the child in your arms? Where does that place step-mothers who have no children of their own (promise unfulfilled)? My husband no longer has his parents, and my step-children lost their mother when they were young. Our day also involved a trip to the cemetery to remember. So its a funny kind of day for us, part happy & part sad. We need to appreciate and celebrate our mothers (and other family members) while we have them.
Today its raining here. We have one chrysalis that looks like its ready to hatch…
Monarch Chrysalis on Yucca