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Monarch Metamorphosis

Here at the Schrader Center we get to see a lot of cycles.  The weather cycles of winter, spring, summer and fall bring with them ever-changing environmental events.  We celebrate the signs of spring with our Maple Sugaring event, seize summer with our collection of camps, say aloha to autumn with our annual R.E.A.P. program, and withstand the winter with pre-school day programming and free Saturday Scavenger Hunts.  Currently we are capturing an up-close view of one particular process – the life cycle of a monarch butterfly.

The evolution of a monarch butterfly takes about 30 days in its entirety.  The four-part process starts with an egg, and the relationship between monarchs and milkweed begins.  Depending on the temperature, it can take the egg 3 to 5 days to hatch into the second stage of the monarch’s cycle:  the caterpillar.  Monarch caterpillars constantly consume food (the milkweed plant) and produce frass (caterpillar solid waste) until they shed their exoskeleton, also called their cuticle, four times.  This shedding is once again individual to environment, and this pre-pupation can take 14-18 days.

The third part of the process is the pupa stage.  Also known as “the hanging J,” the caterpillar will spin a silk button to suspend itself,  fastened upside down.  The chrysalis will form and become firm and this “jade green jewel” dangles for about 10 days before a butterfly begins to break through.   The fourth and final factor then forms.

The butterfly emerges but its wings will not expand.  It must push hemolymph, butterfly blood, into its body for another hour or two before the wings will work.  The butterfly will then depart from its former dwelling and fly away.  You can see this entire process at the Schrader Environmental Education Center, as well as view our Monarch Rabble Butterfly Display and Memorial, and explore on your own in our butterfly garden. – By Sara Fincham, Schrader Center Customer Service Representative

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