Royal Lessons

ohand Of the butterfly kind!  When we moved here, we promised CareBear that she could have a butterfly be some milkweed…the food of the Monarch Butterfly.  She has watched over and cared for that plant all the while keeping a close look out for her favorite butterfly.  This last month she finally saw success in her efforts.  At least we thought so…

Did you know that there are 3 butterflies in the Monarch family?  I didn’t.  I thought there was only 1 caterpillar that ate the milkweed…and a couple copycat butterflies.  We watched those caterpillars and CareBear collected several chrysalises to hatch inside where we could watch them closely.  That alone has been a wonderful adventure.  The first chrysalis to hatch got stuck.  I wish I’d thought of pulling out the camera…but  I’m not used  to thinking that way (though you’d think I would be with 6 kidlets). The poor little thing’s little head stuck to the chrysalis….don’t know why…but she struggled and struggled for over 24 hours.  Because of that, she couldn’t hang right to straighten her wings all the way.  (We know she was a girl because she lacked the little spots on her wings that are on male wings.)  I know this is all part of “life”…and my kidlets understand that part too…but I couldn’t bare to let her die like that.  With a little care, I helped her to get unstuck.  That was a really cool thing…and it was really nice to be a “hero” for my kidlets in that moment. You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I think that little butterfly was grateful as well.  She clung to my fingers for a long time…and every time we checked on her (trying to get her to drink a little sugar water) she’d climb back on my hand like she belonged there :).  One of the other chrysalises hatched shortly after she did…a male…but he was very stand-offish.  When it came time to let them go, we sat in the sun for a bit.  It was fun watching the male warming his wings in the sun…and then when he was ready…off he flew.  The girl sat on my fingers for a long time…trying to sun her own crooked little wings.  We tried giving her a little more sugar water…and then she seemed to gather her courage and off she flew!  Right up into my blossoming apple tree.  That was really wonderful to see.  I’m a realistic.  I know that her life was probably very short.  But I’m glad she had the chance to fly…even if it was only for a short while.  There is nothing that feels more glorious then being able to fill the measure of creation God intended. It’s a beautiful thing…and a tiny little creation reminded me of that. 🙂

I’m not sure how many butterflies CareBear has hatched, but it’s been a wonderful learning experience.  If you haven’t had the chance to see a Monarch Butterfly’s metamorphosis this website is a wonderful one to check out.

Okay…back to my original comments.  The Monarch Butterfly has 2 other members of the royal family…and a family wannabe.  One of them is called the Soldier…this butterfly apparently isn’t very common to the USA.  The Monarch is a little more common…but the Queen apparently is very very common…particularly in our area.  The Viceroy is the copy-cat butterfly…this one mimics the coloring, but doesn’t use the milkweed for the pupa stage like the other 3.  I honestly thought there was only the one Monarch.  So I was a little confused when CareBear tried to tell me all this after she did a little research. Apparently we’ve been watching the Queen all this time.  Live and Learn!

The website I mentioned above shows the true Monarch.  Look at the caterpillar over there to compare.  Here’s the Queen caterpillar.

 

Can you see the differences?  The striping is a little different…but the biggest difference is the 3rd set of antennae looking things in the middle of it’s back.

Here’s a Queen Chrysalis.

 

Apparently the Monarch and Queen chrysalises look identical.

Here’s a Queen Butterfly.

 

 

Can you see the differences between the Monarch and Queen adults?

And how about this one?  Can you see the difference between the Queen above and the Queen below?

 

 

Do you see the spot on the lower wing sections?  That’s supposed to indicate male.

Maybe someday CareBear will be lucky enough to attract some true Monarch’s to her butterfly garden.  But wil or nil, I think she’s having a blast already.  I know I am!

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