I resumed volunteering at Natural Bridges State Beach this morning, talking to visitors about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly at a milkweed exhibit at the visitor’s center entrance. I love meeting new people this way. There was a woman from San Jose who was happy to learn that she could help support the monarch population by planting milkweed. Milkweed is the only plant monarch caterpillars will eat so it is the only place where eggs are laid. It doesn’t grow well here in Santa Cruz where the monarchs migrate for the winter so it’s much needed in the bay area where urban sprawl and herbicide use in the orchards have wiped out much of it. In between talking to visitors, I snapped some photos of different stages of development in the chrysalis.
It appears as though the chrysalis is green but the outermost layer is actually transparent, slowly taking the shape and color of a monarch butterfly underneath. The little golden specks align with the tips of the wings and aid the development somehow but no one knows the mechanism. We do know that if they are covered up, the butterfly won’t develop and they’re thought to detect light.