I have 3 Butterfly Bushes at my house. I had been so disappointed most of the summer, I had no butterflies! And then all of a sudden, I did!!! I loved watching them and trying to snap photo’s.
But then, browsing through herbs that were marked down to a $1 at my favorite plant and produce place, I saw what I thought was a garden pest, possibly a large hookworm. There was a sales person nearby so I left her know. Before she even came over to look at what I was talking about, she was already telling me it was a caterpillar and would be a Monarch.
She said all I needed to do was to put it in a jar and watch it grow. The parsley plant was mine!
My girlfriend wanted one too so I gave her the plant with the large caterpillar and the other sales girls found a very small, little black caterpillar. Lucy and Ethel found new homes.
I found out later, after I had posted a picture on Facebook, that we had Black Swallowtails. So, I researched what we needed to do to grow these little critters.
Since mine was so small, all I needed to do was to keep a few sprigs of parsley in the jar for the caterpillar to feed upon. I had her in a mason jar, I removed the flat lid and just used a thin piece of paper towel with some very small holes poked through, and then just used the twist part of the lid to secure it.
I kept an eye on her daily, after she ate all the leaves of a sprig I simply removed the stem and added fresh. They also poop! So the jar needed a good cleaning every other day.
The growth was fast and furious! And absolutely amazing!
And the larger she got, she ate more which meant she pooped more (and bigger!!) so I needed to clean the jar daily.
She was beautiful! I couldn’t believe how quickly she changed. In just one day she was bigger!
Once she reached a larger size, I put a small stick in the jar. She didn’t bother with it for a few days, she still had some growing to do, and lots more eating. I was afraid I would need to go get another parsley plant. She had almost eaten all of the parsley plant that she was on when I got her.
Then one day when I came home from work, she was on the stick. For a day or so she moved around the stick, I guess looking for a good spot to settle down.
One day she managed to find that comfy spot and she spun a silk button to attach herself to the stick. I pulled the stick out to look at her closely, carefully placed her back in and then the next day she moved again. Okay Lucy I won’t move you this time.
Then she hooked her head, curled in her legs and by the time I got up the next morning, she was a chrysalis. This whole process took about 12 days.
I read that it could take 10-14 days for her to emerge. The chrysalis changed colors, she turned brown and I thought for sure she died.
Ethel, my girlfriends Swallowtail had already morphed into a butterfly, she was gorgeous! My girlfriend told me that I should be able to see her move as she is getting ready to emerge.
I swear one night I saw one end totally bend! But after that I saw nothing, for days, I was convinced she died. Every moment that I walked past the jar I was peering in, like a peeping-tom, trying to witness some kind of movement from her.
Then one day, I came home from work, and she was on the paper towel trying to figure out how to get out!!! Exactly 14 days!
I practically threw my stuff on the floor, grabbed my phone and the jar and went outside to my flowering butterfly bush.
I unscrewed the lid and carefully laid the paper towel over onto a flower. She quietly sat and spread her wings for about 30 seconds which allowed me to snap a few photo’s.
Then she stepped off the towel and onto the flower for a few more seconds, and she took off!! She circled my yard and was gone.
What a beautiful sight it was! And an amazing thing to watch and experience!
But my story does not end here. In the midst of Lucy’s transformation, I discovered I also had a Monarch outside.
I had ordered a Butterfly Weed/Milkweed online, early Summer so by the time it arrived and I got it in the ground it was July. It didn’t grow. And I was really disappointed. Then one day it sprouted and grew only about 4 inches so I figured I would not have any luck with it.
I was mistaken! The last week in August I was planting a Sedum near the Milkweed when I spotted this gorgeous creature! I was so excited!
She was already pretty much full grown so she must have been there for about 2 weeks. I began to read about what to expect, learned what I could and patiently waited. Then she was gone. Darn! I figured something got her as I expected her to attach to the milkweed once she became a chrysalis.
But then I learned she could have traveled to a nearby plant to attach to. I figured that would have been my Rose of Sharon since it was the closest. My son, his girlfriend and I searched one afternoon but we couldn’t find her.
The next plant is one of my Butterfly bushes. I needed to trim that back so as I did, I kept looking for the chrysalis. Never found it. I was convinced she was deep in the middle of the Rose of Sharon or sadly, something ate her.
Silly me. She was there, in the Butterfly Bush, near the bottom, still in caterpillar form. Hanging upside down. I wasn’t looking for that! But I was soooooo happy to have found her.
She stayed in the J position what seemed like many days. I always checked on her in the morning when I would leave my pup out, and I noticed nothing unusal. Went to work but later that day I need to run home around 1 to have my fridge repaired. Of course I went out to check on her. She had begun the process of changing. I kept an eye on her while I was home but I needed to run back to work for a few more hours.
By the time I had gotten home she was not quite done so I was able to watch her the rest of the evening. The remaining change happened quickly, by the time it was getting dark she was finished.
Another 10-14 days of waiting for nature to do its beautiful thing! By now Lucy had just left me to explore the world in her short life time.
And then it happened! Last Sunday morning when I left the pup out I meandered over to check on the Monarch, wishing and hoping today was the day so I could watch her while I was home.
I noticed the chrysalis had changed to a deep dark green. Hmmmm, I didn’t remember reading about this color, only that it would turn to a clear covering so that I could see the black and orange wings inside. But I kept watching, praying that she didn’t die.
Next thing I knew the chrysalis was black, I knew she was coming out today!
The bad thing for me was that it was so terribly hot. It would be good for her to dry herself but the heat was killing me. But I had things to do in the house so I would run inside to do a chore and then sneak back outside.
I could tell by the color change it would be soon but I couldn’t stand the heat so I brought out my rain umbrella to help give me a little shade.
The next thing I knew, she was out! I missed part of it but not much. All I could see was the body and lots of legs with curled wings struggling to grasp a good grip on the sack and stretch her body out.
It was hard to get good pictures because of her location on the bush and the morning sun behind her. But I hunkered down to watch this amazing show. Slowly her wings unfurled, she moved around a bit, turning and twisting on the sack.
Little by little her beautiful wings opened. I read that she would need to hang upside down for 3-4 hours to dry her wings. If she didn’t her wings wouldn’t be strong enough for her flight. So after her wings were open, I left her alone and just occasionally checked on her. Well, it only took her an hour and she moved up the bush. Opening and closing her wings. And I could actually see the water dripping off of her! I snapped a ton of pictures, she was gorgeous.
She seemed to take a test flight once in a while, jumping to a different flower. Then, she surprised me and moved to the Rose of Sharon. I stayed back for a while, only watching from the door. I didn’t want to spook her. And then I didn’t see her. I stepped out on the door and took a step, it was just in time to watch her take off!
Monarch’s born at this time live the longest, over the winter to start a new generation in the spring. She is on her way to Mexico or Southern CA. How crazy is that?!?!? This was one of the amazing things to watch. I would suggest giving it a try if you find a parsley plant with a caterpillar and invest in a milkweed plant to bring the Monarchs to your yard. They do get infested with aphids, and being that this was my first attempt, I have not clue how to fight the aphids without harming the Monarch.
Live well friends!