We went on a camping trip recently, but before we left, we made sure to leave some cut up orange pieces in the basket where we were keeping the caterpillars, should they complete their transformation to butterflies while we were away. I just noticed the the orange pieces look a bit like butterflies!
When we came back, three days later, the first thing we did was to check on the caterpillars. All of the caterpillars had turned into butterflies. We had them in a wire mesh waste basket with a piece of cardboard on top, with the orange pieces on a plate on the bottom of the basket. I thought that since we were away it would be a good idea to change out the orange pieces to make sure they had something to eat. The moment I lifted the cardboard from the top of the basket, every one of the butterflies immediately flew out of the basket.
If you’ve ever had a fly in a room, you’ve seen it fly around aimlessly bumping into things, randomly landing on things in the room and taking off again to fly around aimlessly some more. These Monarch butterflies did not do anything like that, instead they all immediately flew directly over to the most southerly facing window in the room and flapped against the glass furiously. There were twenty or so butterflies gathered around the window and on the window sill. It’s amazing that these little insects somehow know that they’re supposed to make their way south to Mexico before it gets too cold. They can only fly when the temperature if above sixty degrees and it seemed as though they wanted to get out of that room as soon as possible while it was still warm enough to fly. In the photo below it looks like they are trying to get to the dahlias blooming below the window outside.
We opened the window and most of them flew out and away as fast as they could. I’ve read that it is estimated that they can fly at around twelve miles per hour, but will go much faster if the wind is in their favor.
We gathered up a couple of the remaining stragglers who were on a neighboring window that does not open and directed them over to the open window. Having a butterfly crawl over your fingers really can’t be compared to anything else, a very strange feeling having their little legs move slowly over the fingers and hands with the wings flapping away.
Most flew away up into the sky, but a few landed on the dahlias below the window briefly before taking off. One of them had some trouble taking off and landed on the grass below the dahlias. Mr. C went outside, held out his finger for it to crawl onto, held up his hand into the sky and then it flew away.