A Monarch Miracle...and a question

Tony G(5a)July 6, 2011

hi everyone,

I just wanted to share a FIRST in raising monarchs.

I'm sure all of you have had a caterpillar that has not been able to pupate correctly: ie hanging off the surface by a single thread suspended in mid air

I had a cat do this recently. First, it somehow had suspended it's body horizontally in mid air. I pulled it down and let criss angel give it another go on a sheet of paper I taped under a cupboard. 2 minutes later, the cat fell on the counter.

At that point, I was going to put the poor thing out of it's misery. Against my better judgement, I put it back in the cage toward the top. Later I found it hanging upside down on the SIDE of the cage by a single thread.

I disconnected the thread from the cage and took out the cat. Again, I contemplated putting it out of its misery. Instead I taped the top of the thread to the piece of paper under the cupboard. I expected to come back later and find a dead caterpillar on the counter.

when I came back I was amazed to find it had pupated hanging by a single thread. The chrysalis looked normal.

Today, she was the first of 3 healthy females to eclose. She flew off about an hour ago. Thankfully, I let nature take its course. Otherwise, I would have killed a perfectly healthy monarch butterfly.

so my question: what are the possible reasons a caterpillar can't pupate correctly?


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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Sick or a parasite are two that come to mind. Sometimes they don't make a good silk pad for some reason, usually because they make one at one place, move for some reason, and then don't have enough time to make a second good one.

It always amazes me to watch them trying to stick the stem on the pad while the old skin is somehow still holding them up.

Don't get too hung up on monarchs having to hang to make a chrysalis. It does not happen a lot but over the 40+ years I've been raising monarchs, I've had quite a few that did just fine pupating in a smooth bottom container. Their chrysalis won't win any Miss Chrysalis contests but the butterfly usually comes out looking fine. Because of my current overflow of caterpillars, most of my monarch chrysalises are not hanging. I took them down and they are laying on a paper towel in a butterfly pavilion. I just make sure they have something to grab onto (paper towel or kleenex) so they can pull themselves out of the chrysalis and something to climb up.

This is the first year I've had butterfly pavilions. A teacher was able to get them for me sans the painted ladies certificate that usually comes with them. Allows me to make use of space that I had been wasting: the ceiling. I had them full of overwintering cocoons and chrysalises. The one drawback I've had versus aquariums is when the moths decide to use their one squirt. I have a wall that needs a good washing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Stem sticking happens around 5:12 - not my video

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 12:41PM
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Yeah, good for you!

I had two chrysalis fall and I just laid them onto a paper towel until it was near time for them to eclose and then I made sure they had something to hang on to when they eclosed.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 7:50PM
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Tony G(5a)

KC...I had initially thought the caterpillar was sick, but the butterfly looked completely healthy and had no issues flying off.

There were a few others making theirs at the same time so maybe she felt compelled to move?

I've raised monarchs a long time too and that's the first caterpillar that couldn't hang properly that survived. wonders never cease!

6 more monarchs eclosing tomorrow! Our patch is filled with eggs and cats too. Monarch season is in full force!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 9:10PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

That is so interesting! I've never had a monarch not make a silk pad, but then I've not raised that many monarchs.
I'm sure glad you didn't put her out of her misery!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 9:18PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Thank goodness you didn't euthanize the poor cat, and I'm glad she turned out to be a healthy, beautiful butterly.

I'm jealous you have so much activity. I found 2 little cats a few weeks back, and the first one just eclosed this morning. Having Monarchs here this early is unusual. Hopefully a new generation will start populating the milkweed like crazy!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 10:38AM
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Tony G(5a)

Sherry- I hope she doesn't give her silkpad making gene to her offspring!

Terrene- I've learned in these forums and elsewhere that the mexican monarchs take a few pathways when traveling north and one big population comes up through Wisconsin and Minnesota.

I think the weather must be more favorable to them? We have warm summers but they aren't TOO hot (except when it was 103 a few weeks back) and we rarely have drought conditions. This leaves many of our host and nectar plants are in better condition than those south of us.

As far as the east coast, maybe a smaller percentage go that route for some reason?

Their migration habits are certainly an interesting topic, even if we don't know the WHY.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 5:34PM
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Monarch crisis. So the cat made his chrysalis on the side of the glass fishbowl. I've moved many a chrysalis, but for some reason the thread snapped the cremaster in half and a drop of "embryonic" fluid came out. I left it on it's side hoping the would dry up and "scab" over. Later that afternoon, it appeared okay...no more bleeding. So I melted some candle wax and placed what was left of the cremaster into the cooled yet still soft wax and mounded the wax around the chrysalis just a tad. Once it hardened, I flipped it back over so now it is hanging properly. I hope the damage has not already been done though...we'll see.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 5:21PM
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Tony G(5a)

hmmmm, I dropped a chrysalis back in June and I tossed it. Maybe they can survive a fall? Keep us posted!

I learned the "art" of taking down the chrysalis this summer.

If the chrysalis comes crashing down it usually breaks at the cremaster so I grab the it with my finger and thumb and pull which pulls down plenty of "silk" from where the chrysalis is attached.

Then, you can tape the silk to something like a stick or the ceiling. The silk is ultra strong so it doesn't take much.

I scotch tape a piece of paper to the ceiling and then tape the chrysalis to that. Try practicing on EMPTY chrysalises first. It's pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Good luck with your chrysalis! Tony

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 7:43PM
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Earlier this summer I made a hammock out of a dried leaf for a tiger chrysalis that fell. I was pretty sure it was a gonner since it oozed a little but a healthy butterfly eventually emerged. I've never had one snap in half before though. Doesn't sound good but you might as well try.
You made my Nice People list for your effort regardless of the outcome Lindacatherine. : )

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 9:16AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I raise my Monarchs in plain old tupperware, and as they reach fat, pupating size, I trace and cut out a piece of brown paper bag and tape it to the inside of the cover. When the chrysalis forms, I just put the paper where ever I want it.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 9:46AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Usually I tape paper towel to the top of the container, and the Monarchs pupate there, but earlier this year a Monarch cat went AWOL and pupated on the underside of one of the shelves on the hutch. I used a pin to loosen the silk, and that worked, but the chrysalis slipped and fell about 1 foot onto the next shelf. It eclosed just fine.

Last year I dropped a chrysalis from about 4 feet on to the tile floor in the kitchen. My biggest complaint about tile is that it is so hard, everything breaks when it falls on the floor, even plastic! The chrysalis was no exception - it looked okay, and turned transparent when the others did, but it failed to eclose.

I guess the chrysalis can take some trauma, but not too much.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 10:00AM
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Whenever I am obliged to detach a chrysalis, and stick it up in a new spot, I always position a cup with crumpled tissue under the chrysalis. If the chrysalis falls, it lands in the cup, and is cushioned by the tissue. So far, I have been able to tie heavy thread(button thread) around the cremaster, and use the excess thread to tie the chrysalis securely to the screen material at the top of the glass jar enclosure.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 11:03AM
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Follow up: To my above post. A beautiful male eclosed today (of course during Hurricane Irene). He is 99.5% perfect...just a little weak on one of the forwings at the tip. It's a bit transparent, like it never filled in. Because of the hurricane I brought in all my potted butterfly plants. So he is fluttering about the living room enjoying the plants. Supposed to be beautiful tomorrow and he can go off into the world then. Thank you, everyone for your support. I wasn't about to give up on the little guy.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 2:57PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I have a link below to a great photo. You will be able to see why a monarch chrysalis sticks to the silk.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cremaster of Monarch butterfly pupa

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 11:34PM
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NaturesFolly(West MI 5)

What a great shot!Kinda looks like the hook part of velcro...Thanks for sharing this!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 7:44AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Cool - all those little hooks!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 7:50PM
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