Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My First Butterfly

Everyone seemed to be doing it this year, so I gave it a try. I collected a couple of Monarch caterpillars (Danaus plexippus), and a few eggs and brought them in to watch them develop, and take them out of the predator-rich world. The largest of the ones collected turned out to be in its final stage as a caterpillar, and after a few days of rather voracious eating formed a chrysalis.

By sheer luck I got to see it turn from caterpillar to chrysalis. After a quiet period of about a day in the "J" formation, where the caterpillar hangs from its chosen spot (attached to the screening over the container where it spent its final days as a caterpillar) looking like a J, there was some vigorous wiggling, then the skin burst, and rolled up to reveal the chrysalis beneath. The skin soon dropped off--movement ceased, and within a few hours the gold necklace and spots appeared on the chyrsalis. That was the morning of July 25. On the morning of August 5 the chrysalis was transparent and the butterfly within was clearly visible. Then, when my back was turned, the butterfly emerged.

As soon as I noticed I took the container outside and watched the butterfly pump up its wings for a while. Then took the screen off and hung it up on the patio so it could rest relatively safely, and leave at will.

Getting ready

The whole process, from eclosing to flying free took about two hours. It spent the entire time preparing for flight on the screen, first clinging on right by (or on) the shell of the chrysalis, then later walking about a bit. I missed the takeoff, saw a Monarch flitting about the garden by the patio, then noticed that my new butterfly was gone. It was a great relief to me that it all worked out--I'm pretty ambivalent about taking critters out of the wild, being a let-nature-take-its-course kind of nature watcher, but this has been very interesting. I just have two more. One formed a chrysalis on Aug 2, and the other is sitting in a "J" as I write.


burning silo said...

How nice that you got to see the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis, especially as you aren't raising very many. I missed most of the ones I raised last year, but it sure is a fascinating event!

Pamela Martin said...

It really is--almost unbelievable to see that non-caterpillar, non-?, wiggling around to shed that skin. And I got to see it again yesterday afternoon when the third made the change. Now if I can just get to see one of them eclose!

Anonymous said...

I was able to see a Monarch come out of its chrysalis and it truly is an amazing event! My son's love for insects has educated me on many neat (and gross!) things, but that was the best!

Pamela Martin said...

Veery, thanks for stopping by. The insects and others are fascinating--and I find the more I watch them, the more comfortable with them I am.