The skills I am learning, so that I can help magnificent Monarch Butterflies to emerge, are stunning. The knowledge comes from several highly qualified quarters, plus a bit of my own ingenuity.
This morning I found that a J-Caterpillar newly formed, had been blown down from wherever it was hanging, to the floor of the butterfly house. This was a case of being in the right place at the right time, so I gently scooped it up and brought it into the house.
I whipped out a cotton bud, snipped off one end to a point, fluffed up the other end a bit and caught the caterpillar's two end feet in the cotton fluff. The caterpillar seemed to know just what to do and in a short time the J was hanging again. Take a look at the picture below, and see how it stretched out a foot to hook into the cotton. Clever thing.
Have you noticed how, when a caterpillar is shedding it's skin for the great chrysalis change, it jerks and wiggles all the time as if it's doing a Houdini trick inside it's skin? Well this caterpillar was doing just that for the entire time I was hanging it up, so I knew that it's chrysalis formation was close.
I kept an eye on it and, after about an hour, the formation happened. Experience has shown me that the cottonbud hung caterpillars always fall down when they shed their skin for the last time (makes sense because they're hooked up by a foot and, in shedding their entire caterpillar skin, they shed the foot as well). For this reason I made sure the caterpillar was hanging close to the ground and under it was thick foam and plastic for a soft landing.
Following advice given by the organisers of our wonderful Butterfly Group, I have been saving pieces of finished-with 'silk' that the caterpillars weave to hook themselves up with when hanging. It gets left behind when they leave the chrysalis. I grabbed a couple of pieces of the silk and caught the cremaster into some of that. It worked. Then I poked a pin through the top of the twisted up silk and the cottonbud, and poked the whole thing into the florists foam that I keep for such a purpose.
Meanwhile my little Houdini carried on regardless, wriggle wriggling into its chrysalis formation.
The picture above shows it part way through the process. Note its discarded caterpillar skin underneath.
I left it working away and, when I checked back a short time later, there hung a beautiful chrysalis.
How clever is that? (and we humans think we're the clever ones).
You can already see the outline of its wings through the chrysalis.
In case of more wind upset, I'll keep it inside our house until it changes colour, prior to the butterfly emerging, then I'll transfer it out to the butterfly house to emerge.
The butterfly house is working really well. We have come to know that, when the butterflies move off their chrysalis shell and cling to the mesh on the roof and flutter a lot, they're ready to go.
Its such a huge thrill to watch a brand new butterfly using its wings for the first time and taking itself high into the air. Kind of magical.
We've made a change since the Post above. We have now attached a piece of florists foam to the back wall of the butterfly house, via a flat stick that has had a medium-size hole drilled at each end and the foam glued to the stick.
This means we can hook the timber through the holes and onto screws, thus holding the foam up at a high level, and we can take the whole thing down if we need to.
This new development is for relocating the chrysalis's that fall down and need to be set up again.
Our new chrysalis is the first inhabitant of this block. I sellotaped it to the cotton bud, that I had initially hung it up on, and poked it into the black. All good.
I am pleased to be able to say that a perfect and lovely female butterfly emerged from her position in the florist's block in the butterfly house, over the weekend.
She's happily flitting around the neighbourhood gardens as I write this.