Butterflies at Christmas, Indeed!

Today, December 24, I have 24 monarch butterfly chrysalises, one of which is about to eclose and become a Christmas Eve butterfly any minute now. Today, I released three butterflies.  Within five days, there should be a dozen more new butterflies– and then nine more butterflies after that.  And that’s only what I have indoors.

It’s officially winter.  At some point, this has to stop, right?  The weather will be too cold for butterflies.  I want to let nature have its way, so I have turned my head from outdoors and stopped checking the milkweed plants in my butterfly garden and concentrated on the caterpillars I’d brought indoors.

Then today, without even looking, I saw three caterpillars in the milkweed near my porch.  Because of that, I decided that the last ten caterpillars I’d brought in could go back outside.  Another influence on that decision was that I was running out of potted milkweed indoors, while there’s plenty of it in the garden, crisp though the temps may be.

And, wow, is nature ever okay without me.  I found another eleven caterpillars surviving “in the wild” in my garden, which now has at least twenty-four caterpillars (24 again, on the 24th of December!) and many monarch eggs that I also spied. 

One of my sons stopped by earlier today when I was about to release the three butterflies.  He released the first one.

He also got a look through my microscope at the sample of abdomen scales I took from the butterflies.  I check them for spores of a protozoan parasite that is prevalent in monarchs.  My son is a middle school science teacher, and he surprised me as he was leaving by telling me that he took photos of me peering into my microscope because he wants to show his students what his mother is doing. 

That’s the best thing I can hear: that someone will spread the word about monarchs and get others interested.

BONUS: While I was writing this, that chrysalis that was ready to become a butterfly did.  It really IS Christmas.



7 replies »

    • Pam, that’s exactly part of the beauty. And, as I corrected a friend today, the monarch caterpillar doesn’t form a covering around itself and then emerge as something new. It breaks through and rips off and sheds its old skin, revealing that beautiful glowing jewel casing of a chrysalis.

      Inside the chrysalis, it completes a process called histogenesis, meaning “new life,” and transforms.

      Now you’ve got me looking forward to New Year’s butterflies!


    • Today held even more beauty; three butterflies eclosed within about a 45-minute span, and I got to watch two of them. People overuse the word “awesome,” but butterflies are awesome.


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