A few days ago I went out looking for Monarch Butterfly eggs. Monarchs lay their eggs on the underside of a milkweed leaf. They are not so easy to find as they are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
I collected several leaves on Tuesday evening and even though I had looked at them with a magnifying glass in the field I discovered that a couple were not Monarch eggs after getting them home. I ended up with three. They are rounded cones that look like half of a football sitting pointed end up and having lines running down the sides.
Using a fairly flat plastic food container I laid several plain paper serviettes in the bottom and added enough water so that they were wet but not running. The leaves were laid in the container, egg side up, and the top put on. I read about how to do all of this on various websites. Websites suggest using paper towel but I don’t use it and did have a few serviettes.
This is an image of one of the eggs with a ball point pen included to show just how tiny the eggs are.
Yesterday morning I could see by the darkened egg top that it was about to hatch. The dark area is the head of the larva.
Here it has started to eat its way out of the shell.
Larva, or caterpillar, emerging from its opened shell.
After emerging the caterpillar eats the shell for its first meal. It does not have its diagnostic stripes yet.
The larva moved around and slept all day after eating the shell and began eating the milkweed leaf. The first frass it produced was white and yellow as it had not eaten anything with any colour. By this morning it had eaten some of the leaf and the frass was now dark.
Frass is the name for caterpillar poop.
It went through the hole it made in the leaf and that is why the colour and texture of the leaf is different now than in the first images. You are seeing the top side of the leaf.
The ball point pen shows that, although it has grown, it isn’t very big yet. With the naked eye it looks like a pencil line about 3/16th of an inch long! The caterpillar has developed its dark stripes.
These images were taken using my Canon 40D as it has more pixels and a more magnified image than my 1DMK2N. My Canon 180 Macro lens has a 2X converter added and a Kenko 36mm extension tube. It is set up on my tripod with the container on a counter. The camera is set at f32, 1/200 to make the flash the main light with no compensation. Canon 580 II Flash on Manfrotto Magic Arm with Super Clamp and flash bracket.
I bought a couple of the Manfrotto Magic Arms and Super Clamps after my first workshop with Joe and Mary Ann McDonald. Joe has dozens of them and I have found them very useful and have added to my collection over the years. They are relatively inexpensive for the jobs they do. Randy Mehoves, an NSN member, showed me how to use one of the Super Clamps to attach a large umbrella to a tripod for wet weather photography.
All the images in this post are the property of Eleanor Kee Wellman and may not be used for any reason without the written permission of the photographer.