Somehow, after all my wishing for monarchs, my discussion of what they eat and how neat they are with folks at the library, the nature center, and at our Lego Club/unschooling open house/co-op day, my quest to discover a milkweed source and finally the shelling out of thirty dollars to get the dang things, our experiment turned out to be disastrous.
The directions in the package said something about washing my milkweed leaves in a weak bleach solution to kill some bacteria that kills the monarchs. Having not suspected this, I began making phone calls. I called Mari to see if they bother with bleaching their leaves when feeding the monarchs they were raising. She did not. I called the library where they were raising monarchs. They did not bleach their leaves either. Finally, I called the nature center where we had seen monarchs being raised and they also said they did not bleach their leaves. In fact, Mari's big concern about raising monarchs was that there is some wasp larvae that eat the pupae before they can grow. So I decided against bleaching the leaves.
Maybe that's where I went wrong.
First, our package lacked one caterpillar, though it was marked with a 6. There were but 5 caterpillars upon arrival, including one that was frightfully small. The runt of our litter did not grow at all in the first couple of days, though the other 4 did. By day 3 he was completely gone.
A few days later, after I'd given them new leaves, one of the caterpillars got lost and shriveled up on the edge of the cage. It seemed obvious to me that when you have one instinct in life, it should be easy enough to stay on the milkweed plant that your entire existence depends on and revolves around until you reach the chrysalis stage at least. Sense could not be made of the matter. So then there were 3.
A few days after that, we got Zorak, and I moved the caterpillars out of their netting and changed their leaves again. By morning, one of the buggers was completely gone without a trace. Thus there were 2.
The next day, I started checking on them religiously, making sure the caterpillars stayed ON the milkweed they depended on. I kept having to move one of them back, at one point even finding him outside of the netting completely. By morning, he had reached the top of the container again and his head had shriveled and his body hung limp. And then there was 1.
He was dead the next day. I gave up.
Here's one of our little dudes when they were still kickin'.