Teenage Monarchs?


Yes, I’m raising butterflies again.  I found a couple of caterpillars and now they are both in chrysalis.  It occurred to me that I’ve talked about baby monarchs

monarch caterpillar

and about adult monarchs


but I’ve never spent much time talking about that in-between time.

monarch pupa orig

Would you call it a teenage monarch? 

When I think back on the pain and struggles of my teenage years, as I fought to become an adult, and sometimes fought against it, I can sort of envy the monarch.  After all, during the interim between childhood and adulthood, a monarch simply hangs there, seemingly doing and feeling nothing at all, while the transformation occurs.  Wouldn’t that be a whole lot better than what I went through? 

A friend stopped by this morning as I was transferring my charges into the butterfly house.

Of course he wanted to know what I was doing.  Dh found the Powerpoint our daughter put together several years ago and showed it to him, and we talked about the incredible wonder of metamorphosis–one of my favorite subjects, of course. 

While I was working in the kitchen this afternoon, glancing occasionally at those perfectly still, jewel-like formations outside my window, I had to think again about it being an easy teenage phase.  BUT what is actually happening to the monarch?  As it shed its skin for the last time, the caterpillar morphed into that green thing, and inside (so I’ve read, anyway) it is completely disintegrating into a green gel-like substance.  A few days later, there is no part of the caterpillar’s body even discernible–it’s just green “goo”–except that in the very center there is a tiny red heart, still beating.  Somehow, mysteriously, the tiny particles that once made up a striped caterpillar are reorganized and form into a long black body and beautiful orange stained-glass wings. 

And after mulling that over, I decided that perhaps the changes I went through as a teen weren’t so very large after all.  During the transformation of a monarch, they are reduced to nothing…except a heart, and the potential to become something beautiful.  And perhaps that’s how it should be with humans as well…

Actually, I have always thought of metamorphosis more as a death and resurrection, and that does fit better, especially considering the complete decomposition of almost everything familiar.  And when you consider the incredible changes that take place, you can’t help marveling.  The caterpillar goes from having a mouth and digestive system that handles a rough diet of nasty-tasting milkweed leaves to one that instead sucks up sweet nectar.  Its eyes, which once could only see light and dark and vague shapes, are changed into multifaceted, far-seeing, incredibly complex eyes.  And of course, they need those eyes because now they are FLYING!  After seeing nothing but the leaf that it’s munching, and spending its entire life within the confines of just a few square feet, it now has the ability to soar over thousands of miles and pick out its favorite flowers from a distance.  What an enormous world there is to see, where before it only had knowledge of one or two plants!

I always wonder whether they have any memory of caterpillar days..but does it really matter?  Why would they need to remember it, that mundane sameness and lack of vision?   When now they have so much to see..

I am really looking forward to flying.



About dayuntoday

I'm a wonderer. I spend a lot of time mulling, pondering, and cogitating. This is just a place to park some of those thoughts.
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6 Responses to Teenage Monarchs?

  1. mcbery says:

    Neat post! I’ve gathered the eggs before too and watched them. Such an amazing miracle! One year we had a whole flock of monarchs fly through and sit on the trees. I felt in awe because I knew it was such a miracle of life and God. God bless your week-end too.

  2. cerwindoris says:

    I haven’t raised Monarchs for several years. The pictures bring back memories.

  3. fwren says:

    Meeeeeeeeee too!  A beautiful post, dear friend ~

  4. ROBINEGGS says:

    I so enjoyed your post….wow!!  I am copying it to give to my sis-in-law as she teaches science to 3 students whom she is tutoring.  I think it is in Oct. that the Monarchs invade Pacific Grove….a thrilling time to be there.  (I’m not sure on the month??)

  5. What a perfect description of life before God…and after! 

  6. homefire says:

    @ROBINEGGS – Have you been there?  I would just love to see it!

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