Wednesday, October 17, 2018

How I Spent My Summer Vacation - Butterflies, Part Two

Or actually, this should be Part One now that I think about it, because without this part, we wouldn't have had yesterday's post :-).  Some shots from the butterfly nursery:

This tiny caterpillar is actually a couple days old.  I thought I'd posted a picture of an egg somewhere, but I can't find it, but in looking for it, I found a picture of a just hatched caterpillar.  Oh my goodness, teeny tiny!  So, yes, the one in this picture is a couple days old at this point.

A day or so older and the big one at the bottom is maybe four or five days old.

They eat and eat and eat and eat and then one day they stop, find a spot they like, attach themselves at the back end and let the front end hang down in a "J" and they hang there for a day or so and then, if you are lucky, you may notice some movement and before your eyes they'll turn into a chrysalis.  Literally before your eyes.  A matter of minutes.

Or you'll more likely walk out of the house and just find a beautiful green pendant.  They start just plain solid green but with a bright gold "necklace" and over the next 10 or so days you can start seeing a hint of the wings forming.

And then one day you'll notice the green turning black and then you'll see the brightly colored wing markings and wonder how on earth a big butterfly could be packaged up in there!

Here's a closer look.

And then, if you are lucky, right before your eyes the shell will crack open and a butterfly will drop out and hopefully grabs onto the shell as it falls.  If he or she falls to the ground, quickly grab a leg and hold it up in the air until the wings fully open.  They can't open up on the ground and if the wings don't open, the butterfly will die.

And how do those tiny crumbled up wings open into a full size butterfly?  Notice the fat abdomen.

They pump the fluid from there into their wings and you can watch that happen, again, just a matter of minutes!

Almost done.

The gold "necklace" remains on the chrysalis shell.

Once the wings are fully extended, they hang on for another hour or two depending on the weather and will periodically open and shut, or fan, their wings to fully dry them off and I'm assuming gather some strength for flying and then poof, they're up, up and away :-).

It was sure nice to see so many butterflies this year.  I'm thinking it was just a good bug year (there were more of everything, good like fireflies, and bad like all the nasty biting bugs that chewed on me all summer), but maybe it is a sign that everyone's efforts to protect the monarch butterflies is paying off.


JaneJMtl said...

Great story; I loved both parts. And what amazing photos! Thank you so much for helping the monarch butterflies.

helen said...

My friend from HS has been doing this for years (10+?) I finally found a few in my backyard (I've been cultivating milkweeds) this summer and brought them in. I think I had 5 releases (I kind of lost track) out of 6 (I still have hopes for that last one, but not great hopes). Not that many butterflies compared to my friend, but 5 more than there might have been. Go Monarchs.
Also do you log them into "Journey North". They count on citizen scientists to help them keep track of the migrations of many animals, including Monarch and Ruby Throated Hummingbirds.

Denny144 said...

Fascinating! All I’ve ever witnessed is the caterpillar eating my milkweeds.

I need orange said...

So cool. Thank you for sharing them with us.

I have definitely seen more monarchs, here in town, and more milkweed, too. Go, Team Monarch!

Unknown said...

That was an eye opener! What a Moma you are. I forewarded it to my neighbor's kiddos. Thanks.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I have always wanted to do that! It is a labor of love! I did not see many larvae or catapillers this year and only a few butterflies:(

LannieK said...

So very cool! Thank you for sharing the magic with us ~ outside of text books, I've never seen such beautiful photos. Amazing butterflies! Before last weekend's snow, I stopped and gathered some milkweed seeds. Going to try to get them started down by the creek :-)

Michelle said...

Such great photos; made me want to see videos of the chrysalis forming and the butterfly emerging! This is beetle season, and not just box elder bugs this year, but all KINDS of creepy crawlies on and in the house!

Anchor Cottage said...


Marilyn F. said...

Absolutely fascinating to see the process through your wonderful photos and explanations. Its a miracle before your eyes. Thanks for sharing.

Cheryl West said...

Totally amazing to watch the progression from egg, caterpillar to fully fledged butterfly. I had no idea how they expanded their wings. Thank you.

sophy0075 said...

A splendid way to spend your summer. Bless you!

katherine littrell said...

Isn't God wonderful! The transformation of the butterfly is one of the most awe inspiring in nature!

Shirley said...

Very cool! Thanks for capturing the process for us to see.


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