Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Caterpillars

Monarch Butterfly Reproduction


Monarch Caterpillars


The mating period for the overwinter population occurs in the spring, just prior to migration from the overwintering sites. The courtship is fairly simple and less dependent on chemical pheromones in comparison with other species in its genus. Courtship is composed of two distinct stages, the aerial phase and the ground phase. During the aerial phase, the male pursues, nudges, and eventually takes down the female. Copulation occurs during the ground phase and involves the transfer of a spermatophore from the male to the female. Along with sperm, the spermatophore is thought to provide the female with energy resources that aid her in carrying out reproduction and remigration. The overwinter population returns only as far north as they need to go to find the early milkweed growth; in the case of the eastern butterflies that is commonly southern Texas. The life cycle of a monarch includes a change of form called complete metamorphosis. The monarch goes through four radically different stages:

1. The eggs are laid by the females during spring and summer breeding months.

2. The eggs hatch (after 4 days), revealing worm-like larvae, the caterpillars. The caterpillars consume their egg cases, then feed on milkweed, and sequester substances called cardenolides, a type of cardiac glycoside. During the caterpillar stage, monarchs store energy in the form of fat and nutrients to carry them through the non-feeding pupa stage. The caterpiller stage lasts around 2 weeks.

3. In the pupa or chrysalis stage, the caterpillar spins a silk pad on a twig, leaf, etc., and hangs from this pad by its last pair of prolegs. It hangs upside down in the shape of a 'J', and then molts, leaving itself encased in an articulated green exoskeleton. At this point, hormonal changes occur, leading to the development of a butterfly (metamorphosis). The chrysalis darkens (actually becomes transparent) a day before it emerges, and its orange and black wings can be seen.

4. The mature butterfly emerges after about two pupal weeks and hangs from the split chrysalis for several hours until its wings are dry (often in the morning). Meanwhile fluids are pumped into the crinkled wings until they become full and stiff. Some of this orangey fluid (called meconium) drips from the wings. Finally (usually in the afternoon) the monarch spreads its wings, quivers them to be sure they are stiff, and then flies away, to feed on a variety of flowers, including milkweed flowers, red clover, and goldenrod.

Monarchs can live a life of two to eight weeks in a garden having their host Asclepias plants and sufficient flowers for nectar. This is especially true if the flower garden happens to be surrounded by native forest that seems to be lacking in flowers.

ABC Wednesday Round 3 is here.


Troy and Martha

48 comments:

ArneA said...

Would have preferred a vehicle with articulated steel band passing around the wheels of a vehicle for travel on rough ground.

leslie said...

Fascinating post! Noticed the C words "courtship" and "copulation" inCorporated, too. lol

I was just in Victoria last week and toured the Butterfly Gardens there - a great interesting experience where I managed to catch some pretty good shots of butterflies - but not in flight as that was impossible!

Ackworth Born said...

years and years ago I used to love watching caterpillers and then I grew up - haven't really thought much about them for about forty years until now.

Kim said...

I am continually in awe over the lifecycle of a butterfly. It is amazing how they become to be. I especially love the monarch and its caterpillar. Great post and wonderful information.

Thanks for your kind words on my post. My mom, grandma, and aunt will be happy to hear someone thinks they are good looking :) And yes, that is a star on my toe. I have three sisters, and we all got the same tattoo on our toes.

ellen b said...

They are even pretty in this stage. Very educational post this week Troy and Martha. Thank you...

Anki said...

Beautiful shot! I have coffe, i wanted :-)

Kjerstis Hjørne said...

Wow, very special C choice.

I would love to come to Texas one day.. Lol..

Petrus said...

Vivid colours - they look a bit scary ...

kjpweb said...

Uh - Troy and Martha - that's a neat "C", with some subtleties strewn in for good measure! ;)
Excellent image! Cheers, Klaus

shutterhappyjenn said...

Thanks for the comment on my post. These are so cute caterpillars! If only all caterpillars can have smooth skin like this.

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Wonderfully informative post and fine photo of the caterpillar stage of the Monarch Butterfly. Thanks! Your "C" gets and "A+."

me ann my camera said...

Nice Monarch caterpillar pictures. I found a couple just the other day.

david mcmahon said...

Monarchs of all they survey!

Carol said...

hi Troy & Martha... i always enjoy your blog... the photos of the caterpillars are quite striking, the colors ... WOW... just beautiful and i enjoy all the great info that you both so graciously provide.... thankyou for that...

when you have a moment could you take a peek at my other site here & there to pick up your Award.... :)

Summer has been hectic, i hope to be more visible soon.... take care

Patty said...

I never thought I would say a bug was pretty but those really are. Great photos.

Louis la Vache said...

hehehe
What Area said... ;-)

...and what Leslie said...

Careful... we don't want to get TOO expliC here!

Gary said...

I've had the pleasure of watching the metamorphosis stage a number of times - it never ceases to fascinate me. I have a time-lapse movie somewhere I'm going to use to show my 5 yr old daughter the process as she's currently 'into' butterflies.
Brilliant C post - great pic of the caterpillars.
Gary
Bodge's Bulletin

Lynette said...

My gosh, browsing your blog is such a good time! I love it all, the photos and the text. Thank you1

Tash said...

Beautiful and very interesting post. The stripes are amazing. Also thank your for finding the name for my butterfly on PVDP!

Marvin said...

Great post. Informative and fantastic photo.

Bibi said...

These guys are pretty! I love caterpillers, except the "tent" kind, which make me squirm. Ick.

Liz said...

They are very snazzy! THey must be easy to spot,

Denise said...

Ah the humble caterpillar! I remember a book as a child, my first Sunday School prize, Caterpillar Capers and Gentleman Jack! I remember the white smooth pages.

RuneE said...

I was much impressed by the pattern of the larvae. If I compare them to the size of the straws the can't be large, which makes the photo even better!

Thank you for the info - not many could have made insecticidal sex interesting, but you did!

naturglede said...

Greate photoes again from you!

Bear Naked said...

Thank you for posting so much information about the caterpillar.
Very interesting and informative.

Bear((( )))

The Texican said...

Pappy was here.

Annie said...

hi there...what a beautiful photo...you are evry clever!

and thanks for visiting my blog last week, was it ...I must have had a busy week!

my photos are from New York where I am staying with my daughter and son in law and tiny new baby

Annie

Greyscale Territory said...

Creep creepy but fascinating!

Aileni said...

Good one.

Michael Palmer said...

Great post, its so fascinating what they do -

photowannabe said...

Striking colors on the caterpillars. I didn't know that that type turned into the Monarch butterfly. Amazing lifecycle. Thanks for all the information.

Daryl said...

I love those little almost a butterfly critters


:-Daryl

babooshka said...

Caterpillars are far more beautiful than we think. These are great catches.

Old Wom Tigley said...

This is a great posting... the info is excellent..
All the very best to you two
to

AphotoAday said...

I'm sure I must have mentioned this before to you, but I grew up in Pacific Grove, Çalifornia, which bills itself as "Butterfly Town USA"...   Each fall the Monarchs return and hang from the pines in great clusters...   The school children have a parade and everything...   The annual "wintering over" is really a big deal for tourism in the area...

Great shot -- I've never seen them in this stage...

Best regards, Don

'JoAnn's-D-Eyes'NL said...

Hello Troy and Martha,
Heeh I Just honor you with my visit (I have just temporarly internet in France, not so much connection)

I really Love this very GREAT! and educational post!!!! This is so interesting, I like the text about the CATERPILLARS, who of the 2 of you is that interested in backgrounds from Nature/animals? Maybe both?

See my ABC's C of course something in France where we still are...

Please do you want to help me again with signing-me-in on SWF tomorrow? ( I have no internet tomorrow in France) I sheduled my post at 20.30 PM Dutch time, My sign-in-name is : JoAnn's-D-Eyes, and blog URL: www.joannwalraven.blogspot.com ,

Thank YOU !!for the favor!!!

French greetings from JOANN
AU REVOIR and a Happy ABC

TSannie said...

Daryl sent me over. You have monarch caterpillars, I have black swallow tail caterpillars.

Brilliant minds think alike! Loved the info you shared.

Shellmo said...

Wow - the monarchs make attractive caterpillars too!

Louise said...

Beautiful picture and wonderful education to go along with it. All of that for a 2-8 week life as a butterfly. The whole process is so amazing.

SAPhotographs said...

You have some stunning pictures and wonderful information on your pages. Thanks for sharing.

chanpheng said...

Such amazing creatures - I love the colors and the way nature has painted them!

Stanley said...

WOW......THOSE ARE THE BIGGEST, MOST GAGANTOMOUS (is that even a word???) CATERPILLARS THAT I'VE EVER seen! HAhahaha.....here in my country caterpillars are REALLY tiny =)

magiceye said...

wow.... that was interesting.. those caterpillars looked lovely

becky voyles said...

Cool caterpillars! Love the photo.

Bob Johnson said...

Very cool, and informative to boot, we just have a lot of uncool ants here, think I saw a butterfly once,lol.

Sara said...

Wow, I really love the colors on those caterpillars....and thanks for the lesson, it was very interesting too.

Dewdrop said...

Looks like you got one of your own there, Troy for this post. Was nice of Mike to call us out.