Thursday, December 10, 2009

December 10, 2009 Day 25 Wings!

8:00 a.m. Two chrysalides are very dark this morning, a striking contrast to the lime green chrysalides in the other rearing boxes. Upon closer inspection, we realize that we're actually looking at a butterfly through the cuticle of the chrysalis! Overnight the lime green cuticle (outer layer) of the chrysalis has become transparent . We can see the familiar black-veined orange monarch wings through the outer layer of the chrysalis. Is that a butterfly in there? We are very excited!

12:00 noon: There is movement spotted in the rearing box. A butterfly is coming out! The butterfly comes out of its chrysalis upside down and hangs onto the chrysalis as it turns towards the top of the rearing box. It's wings are wet and crumpled. The butterfly touches the paper towel piece but moves quickly toward the other chrysalis hanging nearby. It stops when its feet reach the piece of paper towel where the other butterfly is resting. Now it is facing the top of the rearing box. Its wings are very crumpled but "folded" away from its body.

A few minutes later the butterfly begins to struggle to hold on; it seems as though it wants to move higher but it can't get a grip on the plastic container. There is only plastic above and below it. A kindergartner remembers the screened terrarium we used in September and brings it over to me. I transfer the butterfly without touching the wings by offering my finger as a perch. We think the butterfly is much happier hanging on to the black screen.

I remind the kindergartners that these two caterpillars were the ones that I removed from their original rearing boxes because I thought they were sick. These two caterpillars had been fed milkweed leaves three days before they went into J-form because we did not have additional food for a 5th container.

2:15 p.m. A kindergartner is playing in the space shuttle and is pretending to make a spacewalk, tethered and outfitted with cell phone and his emergency tool kit. "Teacher Ann! An emergency!" he suddenly shouts across the room. Quickly I go over. He is standing beside the experiment table where he has found our second butterfly, newly-emerged, lying on the bottom of the rearing box. It is lying on its back with its soggy-looking wings stuck to the bottom of the box; its legs are flailing in the air.

He knows, having been independently studying the photos in the caterpillar and butterfly field guides and reference materials for two weeks, that this is not the position a butterfly takes after it comes out. Immediately I remove the plastic wrap and rubber band from the rearing box and offer the butterfly my finger as a perch. The butterfly easily takes hold and I gently lift it and move it into the screened terrarium. The butterfly steps off my fingers and securely takes hold of the screen; in this position, the butterfly is able to pump liquid from its abdomen into its wings, straightening them in the process.

2:45 p.m. Before the day wraps up, a few kindergartners take one more look at the butterflies, the empty chrysalides, and the lime-green chrysalides slowly darkening in the rearing boxes.

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