Monarch butterflies unfolding my heart


 

Just_Emerged_Butterfly_600-283x300The Butterfly is the end of the story, or maybe it is the beginning?

A few months ago, I noticed six or seven hungry monarch caterpillars finishing off the last leaves on a tall stalk of milkweed. I panicked, how will they survive? I transported the caterpillars to other milkweed plants with plenty of leaves. As I transported one particular caterpillar, our hearts melted and merged. I was filled with pure joy.

A few months later, a good friend died. To honor her I made a new garden and filled it with milkweed. As I planted, a monarch floated around. It was only a few weeks until the 13 plants were literally crawling with spectacular monarch caterpillars.

I had to expand the garden and plant more milkweed. It turns out that one caterpillar eats 20 leaves of milkweed!Caterpillar_Close_up-224x300

 

 

And then I saw the “J”.

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After shedding it’s skin 5 times as it grows from a tiny  “micro-pillar”  into a finger sized “adult-pillar” a mature caterpillar sticks itself strongly to something and hangs in a “J” shape. I have spent hours watching and waiting to witness the transformation from “J” to chrysalis.  I haven’t seen the entire process, I did catch a glimpse of the end of the show just once. It seems to take anywhere from a few hours to maybe a whole day to change itself from “J” into a chrysalis shown below:

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In utter stillness for 9 – 10 days. I wait. Inside the chrysalis a thing called metamorphosis is happening. Just hours prior to emerging I can see through the now translucent chrysalis the orange wing of an adult monarch butterfly.

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And I wait again, hoping to catch the moment of emergence. My patience falters. I start puttering in the garden. Five minutes later and she is out!

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And now she has to hang and dry for a couple of hours. Once her wings are dry and she has her wits about her , off she flies into the breezy afternoon! Her beginning, a caterpillar’s end.

To all of this we owe the milkweed plant.

Milkweed is the only plant where monarchs will lay their eggs and the only plant that the caterpillars eat.
Prior to my monarch encounter a milkweed seed sprouted and grew. Reaching to the sun, aspiring for the sky, this milkweed fulfills its purpose as it is consumed by a hungry caterpillar destined to fly.

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Milkweed needs the Earth to grow on.

People have been planting their homes and roads and malls and parking lots on top of this Earth to such an extent that the milkweed is quickly losing her home. No milkweed, no monarchs. Growing milkweed is a simple way to participate in this cycle of life.  Just plain old milkweed – no fertilizer, no herbicide – keep it pure and simple so the caterpillars can maintain their health and vibrancy.

I have listed some sources of milkweed seeds, plants and more monarch information below. Please use the comment box below to add other sources.

MilkweedWatch.org

Live Monarch

List of milkweed sources from Mother Earth News

Monarch Watch Plant source list

 Butterfly Association

 

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Monarch caterpillar on milkweed

About The Author

Cindy Black, L.Ac., LMT

Cindy Black is the Founder of Big Tree School of Natural Healing and the author of Meridian Massage, Pathways to Vitality. She is appreciated for her ability to make the complex accessible, fun, and practical.

9 Comments

  • Janet Klock

    Reply Reply March 17, 2014

    In utter stillness for 9 days. 9. The number of everything and nothing. Wow, Mother Nature is BRILLIANT!!

  • Laurie Raba

    Reply Reply March 27, 2014

    Mother Nature is brilliant and impossibly intelligent. How can a butterfly even find a milkweed plant? And how can 3 generations of them live only 2 weeks and the 4th generation travels to Mexico and lives for 6 months?? My first caterpillar appeared on a plant in my backyard, and now they appear in my dreams! Thank you Cindy for bringing me onboard for this rescue mission. I am deeply moved and filled with awe.

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac.

      Reply Reply March 28, 2014

      I’m so happy to hear that you are basking in the glow of monarchs in all over their beautiful forms! The more caterpillars I watch while monarchs float around me the more I wonder who is saving who?

  • Natalia

    Reply Reply April 2, 2014

    There are NO butterflies in Malta. At all. Strangely, I have never thought about that until now.. I grew up in Russia, where the climate allowed these beautiful flyers to exist. I am thinking now – could butterfly survive saulty and humid air? Where could I get the caterpillar to start with? OMG

  • Christina

    Reply Reply April 2, 2014

    Thank you for your heart stopping description, I feel as though I was there :))) So touching. A dear friend of mine who is no longer with us always called me chrysalis. You never know how your beautiful writing touches others. Thank you Cindy

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac.

      Reply Reply April 2, 2014

      Christina,
      These gentle creatures are weaving so many connections between us humans. They inspire me every day in their various forms – each one magnificent, fun, colorful and mysterious. Thanks for sharing in the wonder of it all!

  • Andrea Butje

    Reply Reply April 2, 2014

    Hey everyone,
    This is a video of the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis. Cindy and I had the incredible honor of watching this in our yard. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152794336111677&set=vb.86064511676&type=2&theater

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