Amazing caterpillars and metamorphosis

  • #1
18,081
7,501

Main Question or Discussion Point

My wife and I planted some milkweed seed last fall and were happy to see a nice crop grow this spring. To our delight we found two monarch caterpillars on a leaf and decided to put them in a bug box. Caring for and watching them work was surprisingly fun and fascinating! In one week they more than tripled in size! All day they eat and poop! Usually at the same time! The two caterpillars met a few times and their antenna's were flying around. I wonder what they were saying!?

We were excited when they attached to the top of the box ready to cocoon (technically chrysalis). I'm blown away by the metamorphosis process. Firstly, these caterpillars completely cocooned themselves in 24hrs and now bare no resemblance of a caterpillar. Secondly my wife tells me inside the cocoon they turn into a liquid* state before recreating themselves as a butterfly. I know this is grade school stuff but watching it day to day is really amazing.

Right now they are still in cocoon state. I will take a photo and then a photo when they emerge!
 
Last edited:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Borek
Mentor
28,353
2,742
they turn into a liquid state
That's not exactly what happens, sounds like a HS simplification :wink:
 
  • #3
1,331
1,144
Right now they are still in cocoon state. I will take a photo and then a photo when they emerge!

Generally when they will emerge as butterflies, they will sit there for quite some days, till they grow big. If possible, fix a camera at them. Later, increase the speed of the video. It looks amazing when you see them growing up.

I observed one such cocoon on a leaf when I was very young. Now in Kolkata, who gets to see all these! :frown:
 
  • #4
Borek
Mentor
28,353
2,742
they will sit there for quite some days
Most species I know will sit for a few hours at most.

edit: plus, they don't 'grow', they just pump up their wings and wait for them to dry.
 
  • #5
1,331
1,144
Most species I know will sit for a few hours at most.
My mistake. Phone autocorrect is stupid at times.
 
  • #6
Bystander
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
5,173
1,173
found two monarch caterpillars on a leaf
I envy you --- parasitic wasps "get" all the eggs from the milkweed I've planted. :oldcry:
 
  • #7
18,081
7,501
I envy you --- parasitic wasps "get" all the eggs from the milkweed I've planted. :oldcry:
I'm located in the upper midwest, maybe we don't have them or as many? OR will they emerge as wasps!? :wideeyed:
 
  • #8
Bystander
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
5,173
1,173
OR will they emerge as wasps!?
No. Just kill(s) the eggs. Colorado, "Front Range." The Monarchs come by, lay eggs, and move on --- two or three days later, nothing.
 
  • #9
Bystander
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
5,173
1,173
Little sister in New Mexico "raises" the critters --- I'll have to pass along that there have been successes in Wisconsin. Can't help but wonder if there aren't "infections" of the milkweed; the plants came from NBS Boulder, and have been "sterile" as far as Monarch production for as long as I've had them. Have to do some reading.
 
  • #10
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,333
2,665
inside the cocoon they turn into a liquid* state before recreating themselves as a butterfly.
That's not exactly what happens, sounds like a HS simplification :wink:
The "liquid state" occurs when many of the larval cells die (and go mushy).
The larval surface is then replaced with cells from imaginal disks that spread through the larval body a form the developing adult body inside the pupae. Other specific sets of cells create new muscle and replace many nervous system cells (but not all).

Most species I know will sit for a few hours at most.
edit: plus, they don't 'grow', they just pump up their wings and wait for them to dry.
After the adult form emerges, it then increases its body size beyond that of the containing pupae's cuticle. It does this by sucking in air to inflate itself before the soft cuticle hardens after its coming out of the pupae. In general, this is how insects grow in size after each molting.
With flying insects, the hardening is required for the wings to be strong enough for flight.
If they don't enlarge or if they get bent during this soft cuticle phase, they will remain that way after the cuticle hardens.
 
  • #11
56
10
[Guess I need to be more careful about wearing glasses... I initially thought the title read arming caterpillars....] :smile:
 
  • #12
259
786
Pics please! :biggrin:
All day they eat and poop!
Haha, poop! What? No one's laughing? Nyeh. You guys don't understand me. :oldtongue: :smile:
 
  • #14
259
786

Related Threads on Amazing caterpillars and metamorphosis

  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
10
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
15
Views
2K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
28
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
2K
Top