Monarch Life Cycle

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The caterpillar locates a site to pupate and a gland in its lower mandible produces a tiny silk pad in which to secure itself.


After ~ 24 hours, the caterpillar attaches its rear prolegs to the silk pad and hangs in the shape of the letter "J."

After ~ 18 hours, the caterpillar begins to straighten and ripples can be seen running through the length of its body as it prepares to shed its skin for the last time.

Rapid growth causes the caterpillar's skin to split behind the head.

The pupa gyrates somewhat violently to rid itself of the caterpillar skin.

Finally rid of the caterpillar skin, the pupa continues to gyrate.  The process to shed the skin takes ~ 5 minutes.

12 hours later, the chrysalis has hardened.

24 hours later, gold medallions form on the chrysalis shell.

6 days later, the veins in the butterfly's wings are visible through the chrysalis as it begins to become transparent.  If you look closely, you can see a row of tiny rings in the texture of the chrysalis that were left by the caterpillar's spiracles (breathing pores).

A view of the butterfly's back.  The head is located in the bottom tip of the chrysalis.  The thorax is outlined by the gold medallions below, and the abdomen is tucked tightly in the top.

On the 12th day, the chrysalis starts to turn transparent.  The butterfly's black thorax and abdomen begin to be visible through the chrysalis.  This particular butterfly is only a couple of days away from emerging.

On the 13th day, the butterfly's wings are visible through the chrysalis.  It appears that this butterfly will emerge on the morning of the 14th day.

On the 14th day -- only a few hours before the butterfly emerges, the chrysalis continues to become more transparent.

Like an accordian, the chrysalis expands to accommodate the growing butterfly
until . . .

The chrysalis splits open!

And, out comes the butterfly!

Initially, the upper wing is visible (notice the darker orange hue).

As the butterfly pumps up its wings . . .

The underwing becomes visible (notice the lighter orange hue).

The butterfly's wings continue to grow until they are full size.  This is as large as the butterfly and its wings will ever grow.  It will stay this size until it dies.

It takes about 45 minutes for the butterfly to pump its wings up to full size.

After the wings are full size, the butterfly hangs from the chrysalis and expresses fluid from the body cavity.  It is important that the fluid does not touch the wing.  The fluid could act as an adhesive; it could damage the wings and possibly keep the butterfly from flying.

Almost 2 1/2 hours after emerging from the chrysalis, the butterfly is still drying out and preparing for flight.

The Monarch is very close to making the transformation from landlubber to graceful flier.


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