Life Science students enjoyed learning about and observing the astounding transformation process of the monarch butterfly. Every summer, monarch butterflies lay their eggs on a specific plant called milkweed. While milkweed is toxic to most animals, it provides monarch caterpillars with the food they need to grow from a 1mm to 5mm. The caterpillars grow in five stages, called instars, before forming a chrysalis. The chrysalis is jade green with shiny gold markings, but becomes transparent as the fully-formed butterfly is ready to emerge.
While the process of complete metamorphosis is fascinating, even more intriguing is the fact that many monarchs will migrate to winter in warmer climates hundreds or thousands of miles away. During the summer breeding season, monarchs live only 2-5 weeks to mate and lay eggs. The final generation of the season is the migratory generation and lives much longer; up to 9 months! Instead of breeding and laying eggs during the summer, they make an epic migration south to Florida and Mexico. This batch of butterflies will lay eggs as they move northward in the early spring.