Finally we have caterpillars who have made it to the chrysalis phase! Unfortunately we had some caterpillar casualties due to one of many diseases that Monarchs are susceptible to. Ours were sadly affected by a very fast moving virus called the Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus. The caterpillars who were separated quickly enough were able to survive and go on to pupate. Let's focus on the positives and learn about the amazing transformation that takes place in this phase!
Once the caterpillars are big enough, they stop eating. It then forms a protective layer of silk around itself, called a chrysalis. The chrysalis is soft at first, but within an hour, the shell hardens to protect the growing butterfly living inside. It’s green color helps disguise the pupa from predators, but since they are living in our office, we just get to admire the beauty! The pupa, or the caterpillar in chrysalis, remains motionless. Even though the pupa has no eyes, legs or antennae, it undergoes a series of changes so it can reborn as a butterfly. The mouth changes from a milkweed-chewing machine to a straw-like tongue, called a proboscis, that the butterfly will need to sip nectar from flowers. After about 15 days, a butterfly emerges. It takes a few hours before the newborn butterfly can fly because its wings are tiny, wet, and wrinkly. The butterfly pumps hemolymph, a body fluid, into the wings to make them stronger and expand. After it’s wings finally become stable, the butterfly goes off to look for it’s first meal! Butterflies enjoy nectar, a sweet, sugary liquid produced in plants, from several different flowers including red clover, alfalfa, thistle, and wild carrot.