Transformation Project

Updated: Jan 1, 2019


I'm documenting the transformation of 5 monarch butterfly eggs.


Please scroll downward each day to see the newest updates.


New posts will be placed at the bottom so as not to spoil the surprise for new readers.


Monarchs are my favorite butterfly. Ask anyone who knows me... my favorite color is orange. How could I choose any other?


When I was given the chance to watch these little beauties hatch and develop, I couldn't say no!


Day 1: August 5, 2018

Tonight, I received 5 monarch butterfly eggs attached to common milkweed leaves. They were witnessed being laid yesterday, so in these photos they are around 24 hours old.




I then spent the next 20 minutes trying to capture the perfect photo to show how the monarch eggs have tiny grooves on them that distinguish them from an aphid egg. For those that are photo-curious, my 10x zoom filter on my lens really helped me here, along with some natural window light off to the side.




“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity.” ~George Carlin


Day 2, August 6, 2018

Nothing to report, all five of the eggs look the same as they did yesterday.

Day 3, August 7, 2018

Morning check-in, 7 a.m.

Disappointing. All 5 of the eggs still looked the same.


Afternoon check-in, 5 p.m.

Even more disappointing. Again, no progress.


I checked again at 7:30 p.m. to show my mother the progress (or lack of) and was surprised when I couldn't find two of the eggs. It took a few moments for us to realize that those two had changed color, and were blending in really well with the leaf. I took photos of the egg that is furthest along to share with you.


I am hoping to have one, if not two, hatched by morning. Although, judging by the speed of the color change in the past two hours, we may end up with five little caterpillars by morning. These guys are fast!


Day 4, August 8, 2018

Morning check-in, 6:30 a.m.

Two little caterpillars had hatched overnight! They weren't moving, though, so I was nervous that they weren't alive. The remaining 3 eggs were still unchanged.


The two caterpillars were about 1/4 of the size of a grain of rice. You could easily miss them if they were on a leaf in the wild. One "cat" had eaten his egg casing, which is customary, the other did not.





Afternoon check-in, 5 p.m.

We have poop! (Yes, I really did say that when I checked on the little guys this afternoon.)


The two little newborns from this morning were not dead at all, and had started eating at the leaves and generating poop, which actually looks a lot like tiny grains of black pepper.


Some poo from this little one. He did NOT eat his egg casing, and seems to have a smaller appetite than his sibling.

Lots of poo around this little guy, the light green area is where he'd eaten all day. (This one DID eat his egg casing, hungry little devil.)

Two of the remaining 3 eggs have begun turning dark, so we should have two more cats by morning, and one egg remains green. I am not sure if that one is a late bloomer or a dud. I'll keep you posted!


Day 6, August 9, 2018

We have two more caterpillars! Still waiting on the last egg, which turned darker this afternoon...



Day 7, August 10, 2018

Our fifth caterpillar hatched out of our 5th egg while I was at work today. We are 5 for 5!



Day 8, August 11, 2018

As the caterpillars change and grow, they go through different stages called instars. I found a chart online that shows how they grow, and which instar has which properties.




Our two middle caterpillars are getting their stripes quite nicely. Their faces are still black and they have't begun getting their tentacles (antennae looking things) yet. They are in the 2nd instar stage.



Our two first-born have reached 6 cm in length and have started sprouting their tentacles. Notice how different their faces are, too? They are entering the 3rd instar stage.






















Day 9, August 12, 2018

Well, the cats needed fresh leaves today. Everyone gobbled theirs all up while I was out, except the baby, and he at half of his! Hungry little devils!


The eldest caterpillar was being so cute on his new leaf today! He was standing up and exploring as though he was looking for just the perfect spot to start munching. I took a photo, and then decided to take a video clip.



He decided to demonstrate the end result of all of that munching and crunching of milkweed leaves near the end of this short, 1 minute video clip.



Day 10, August 13, 2018


Today's most notable development was on the two oldest caterpillars. Their front tentacles have grown quite noticeably today, the back end being much shorter. If you aren't sure which direction they are facing, it is much easier to tell today.



Just look at that adorable little face! Their white face markings really brightened up today, too.


Day 12, August 15, 2018

Measured the big guy today, he's almost exactly 2cm in length when resting. You may note that his white facial features have now turned yellow, as well.


Day 15, August 18, 2018

The cats are big enough that I feel comfortable with them climbing onto our fingers without worrying that they'll get squished. (Well-washed hands first, of course!)


Spotted this guy on the side of the container this morning... looks like we just missed all of the action.

Day 16, August 19, 2018

The big three are definitely in instar 5 at this point. Very large, with very long tentacles, large spots above their feet, and complex striping patterns.


The rear end of our largest. Note the fancy stripe pattern (looks like hot rod flames to me!) and the large dots above the feet.

We observed this guy munching for a while. You can see the juicy stuff that they spit while eating. I read online that the stuff he's spitting helps him digest the toxins in the milkweed. Those same toxins protect him from predators as a caterpillar and later as a butterfly.

Lauren enjoyed spending some time photographing the caterpillars with the 10x zoom filter on.

Today was also the day that we got to cat sit for the cat-whisperer herself, my sister! She's got around 10 caterpillars and eggs in different stages of development. We're keeping an eye on her her collection while she gets away for a few days.


Of course, that was the perfect opportunity to pose two of her little one day old hatchlings with my big guy for a photo! It is incredibly impressive to see how how much they grow in such a short period of time. Our big guys should be hanging upside down any time now, in preparation of turning over into a chrysalis. We're ready and hoping to catch it with film or video.


UPDATE: This post is NOT DEAD!


I've got loads of chrysalis photos, including how to tell the sex of your butterfly BEFORE it hatches.


AND


I've managed to lose my video footage of our hatchling, and I'm hoping to steal similar footage from my sister who hatched ONE HUNDRED AND NINE butterflies this summer! I'm sad because I caught the whole hatch from the time the chrysalis split until its wings were fully extended.


More details will come soon!

© 2018 Track 4 Visual Arts.