Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Joy of Metal Clay - Miracles of Nature


Please excuse a slight digression from metal clay today.
One thing I am inspired by is nature!



While camping a couple of weeks ago my youngest and I collected a Monarch caterpillar and two monarch eggs. We have spent the past two weeks entranced by the process of metamorphosis.



In addition to the eggs we collected we discovered eggs on our home milkweed plants (their sole source of food) and we now seem to have quite a Monarch nursery going on in our kitchen (the current count is one chrysalis, three caterpillars and four eggs).




First, there is the egg, it is small, oval in shape, whitish creamy colour which is found on the underside of the milkweed leaf.



Above is one of our recent eggs we found on our front lawn!


This stage takes about three days to hatch. Before they hatch you can begin to see the little critter developing in the egg. Right before it hatches you can clearly see the black head in the egg. When he or she emerges the first thing it does is eat it's shell. Then the critter slowly begins eating the milkweed and beginning to get its nice stripy colour.





Three day old monarch (above). The tiny holes are the areas where he has been munching the leaf.


Once born these little critters are extremely tiny. They are so small, we lost one of our newborns and we fear that he/she was eaten by one of bigger caterpillars (only because it is so tiny and probably was in the way). Below are the current babies in our nursery:


Far left is a 12 day old caterpillar, in the middle on the left side of the penny is a 9 day old caterpillar and there is a tiny, tiny one to the right of the penny who is three days old.



They grow quickly and in about two weeks they will begin to form their chrysalis.



The first caterpillar beginning to get ready to form its chrysalis. (this one we guess is about 12-14 days old, we didn't hatch him so we aren't certain).

Our first caterpillar is sitting in his chrysalis as I write this (we have decided it's a boy but won't know its actual sex until its pupates into a butterfly, Monarch's sex can be determined by the spots on their wings).

We had the joy of watching him begin the transformation. He began by seeking out a place to build his new home. We watched him as he left his milkweed leaves and began to walk up and down several sticks we had provided him for this purpose. Finally when he picked a spot he made a white bump on the stick with his mouth then turned around and attached his behind to this spot. Then he slowly lowered himself into a "J" shape hanging from the branch (pictured above).

After this point he hung there for quite a while (about 12 hours, not changing much), I noticed the shades of his yellow skin began to get a green hue to it. I missed seeing when it started to changed into the beautiful green chrysalis. I was sitting at my desk working on some work and within five minutes of not watching I turned my head and he had turned green (and like something out of an alien movie). Actually the whole process makes me think of aliens.


Beginning to form the chrysalis, you can still see the caterpillar like ridges and bumps. (it took about 30 minutes before it got its smoother look with the tiny golden dots as below).




As he does this he wiggles and wiggles, from my research the process is actually a shedding of his exoskeleton. Then he becomes this beautiful chrysalis with golden dots on it. I have to admit that the monarch chrysalis is one of the most beautiful exotic things created by nature.



Although this little nature lesson is far from metal clay. It has inspired me and I am hopping to create little nature series. I don't think it will be in silver sadly (budgetary cuts, you know) but we will see.


Our first chrysalis is five days old, we expect to have a Monarch, by next week (fingers crossed), stay tuned.


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