Stories | April 25, 2017
The Wonder of the Monarch Butterfly
Every summer the seemingly impossible occurs.
In a Midwest farming town along dusty country roads,
You’ll find milkweed resting in the soil.
An unlikely setting for the spectacular.
Look closely and you’ll see a tiny, nondescript dot.
One of hundreds of eggs laid by a mother monarch.
The grandchild of a well-traveled butterfly.
No parent in sight, this egg sits alone.
Mother moved on days ago with many eggs still to lay.
Small and vulnerable, left to fend for itself.
A lonely egg waiting to hatch.
A caterpillar is born.
Beginning life with simple dress,
Only pale-green and a shiny, nearly translucent exterior.
Her iconic, vibrant stripes appear with time.
A hunger for milkweed.
A tiny creature with a ferocious appetite.
Hardly stopping to rest, continuously feeding on milkweed.
Leaving tiny, circular holes, offering sign a caterpillar is home.
This diet of milkweed acts as defense.
The poisonous sap draws predators away.
A taste offensive to the palate of grasshoppers,
No guarantee of safety, but a worthy measure.
Days pass and her appetite subsides.
She begins to wander back and forth across the leaves,
Appearing aimless to some but clear to those who know her.
Her transformation afoot, preparation begins.
Shedding her skin a final time, she begins to spin her silk.
Fastening her hind legs to this silkpad hanging upside down.
Enjoying her final moments as caterpillar.
In years past this vessel was called cocoon, today — chrysalis.
Suspended in the air it sways with summer breeze.
No worry to detect, only tranquil rebirth.
In chrysalis she remains for a week, perhaps two.
Appearing uneventful on the surface but lively within,
Cells multiplying, building a butterfly.
Forming her antenna, unmistakable color and enchanting wings.
The chrysalis offers a preview.
Jade green before, now glassy and clear.
Showing her majestic form of orange, black and white,
Soon, she’ll be ready to emerge.
The chrysalis breaks.
Expanding and contracting, slowly ascending down her shell.
First antennae, thorax and then her newfound wings.
The monarch revealed, her transformation complete.
Words fail to capture this wonder.
Once a caterpillar, now a monarch,
Tempted to test her new skill of flight,
She wisely waits for her wings to dry.
A day passes, she sets out beginning a new life.
Moving further north to rolling fields,
Seeking the sweet taste of nectar today—tomorrow, a home for eggs.
Like her mother before, she’ll soon be possessed with desire for milkweed.
Allowing this transformation
and legacy to continue.
Egg to larva, larva to chrysalis, chrysalis to monarch.
Her offspring carrying onward north, some as far as Canada.
Thousands of miles and across many generations.
A marvel to cherish.
Their transformation of egg to butterfly,
Their flight across North America,
Possible with milkweed and impossible without.
The home of the caterpillar deserves protection.
To sustain and preserve her beauty,
We join the movement restoring monarch habitat.
Reviving landscapes with milkweed and nectar flowers.
Guiding monarchs across the countryside.
Helping secure the monarch for everyone,
Assuring her beauty is not reserved to the past.
A promise to help continue this wonder for every generation.
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The journey of the monarch continues…