Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A casual gesture of beauty

I took the day off from work and camped out in the backyard with my butterfly-to-be. I drank my morning coffee, did some prep work for school, watched unidentifiable warblers flit through the trees, dozed in the sun, drank more coffee, read a chapter or two in a book, and snapped this photo around 1:30 this afternoon. I was impatient and had myself convinced that it wouldn't happen today and that I would miss it while at work tomorrow. I'd read that the chrysalis would become very dark before eclosing (thanks for the proper word, Bev!) and once that happened I could expect the metamorphosis the same day. The chrysalis certainly could not become any more beautiful than it was in this last pic above.
I got up from the lawn chair at 2:45 and found that the butterfly had emerged while I was feeling sorry for myself. It hung, suspended from its shed chrysalis, for about an hour and a half. For most of that time it was as still and intent as when it was pupating. Every so often it flexed its wings or repositioned itself ever so slightly. I'd read that most of the work of metamorphosis is complete before the caterpillar forms its chrysalis. During the first half of pupation the wings grow and scales develop; the last touches are the addition of pigment. When it emerges from the chrysalis the butterfly hangs limply, vulnerable, while it pumps blood through the veins of its wings to expand and harden them. Tentatively it tests its wings and flight muscles.
Eventually it climbed to the top of a snakeroot flower, a few inches above where it had spent the last 17 days pupating, and spread its wings to the warming sun. I could see then that it was a male based on the two *dots* in the black veins of the hindwings. The russet and black wings are gorgeous and fresh. Breathtaking! He flew to the top of my neighbor's garage and rested, then flew to the mulberry tree and rested again; warming and strengthening his wings.
Just 2 1/2 hours after emerging from his chrysalis, and 2 1/2 weeks after pupating he flew away towards the sun; heading south, I hope. It is chilly tonight, I hope he has found a sheltered spot in which to spend it. From what I've read, monarchs born this late in the summer form the last generation of the year, flying south to Mexico where they overwinter until March, when they mate, fly north again, lay eggs and then die. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to watch this whole wonderful spectacle from start to finish. I've been blessed by the experience. Fly! Fly away butterfly!

28 comments:

bunnygirl said...

Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us!

Lynne said...

Every stage along the way- he looks like a jewel!

Susan Gets Native said...

How often do we get to see a newly minted Monarch?
Thanks, Laura...it was worth the wait!

Pam in Tucson said...

Oh, oh, oh! I'm speechless. Gorgeous photos of this incredible process. What a wonderful day you had, watching this miracle. The dark chrysalis photo is magnificent as you get a glimpse of the beauty to come. Way to go, Laura!

Michelle said...

Laura - that is truly awesome! I had to go back and check your previous entries on this. Wow are you a patient person :)

MojoMan said...

This has been a simply amazing series of posts. I'm wondering if there is some place/way to pull it together into some kind of consolidated, permanent reference.

Hey! Get on a bicycle and follow him to Mexico. It will be a chance to polish your Spanish. (No plane ticket needed!)

samtzmom said...

Wow... how very cool to be able to witness this vision of beauty. Thanks for sharing it with everyone.

Linda said...

"Oh my God, this left me breathless! This is nature at its finest and a gift for you that you shared this awesome experience - I'm so happy Laura that this happened on your day off. Thank you for sharing this miracle - your photos and words were beautiful.!"

Patrick Belardo said...

Congrats on the successful metamorphosis! That must have been really special to see it take its inaugural flight. I can't wait to have a real yard someday to experience the same thing.

Jill said...

What a beautiful experience. Not many would take the time to see a butterfly emerge, but you did. That is awesome.

Rondeau Ric said...

An enjoyable story of an amazing transformation.
I'm glad you took the day off work.

NatureWoman said...

That is so great you got to see him before and after his emergence! Thank you so much for sharing this miracle with us.

Endment said...

How I appreciate all you have shared in this adventure with the Monarch - Thanks

Egret's Nest said...

So cool! Thanks for sharing!

Sandy said...

Laura, what a good series of photos! So glad that you got to be home when all this activity happened. Seeing the whole process is new to me. I will be sure to show my grandsons these shots when they come to see us next time.
You are right, that first shot is great.

Ruth said...

I was away for a few days and had to come and check on the status of your "late bloomer". My butterfly eclosed on day 18 and I missed it! but my daughter photographed the event for me. What a beautiful sight!

LauraHinNJ said...

Bunnygirl: Glad you liked it - fun for me too!

Lynne: You're right - just kept getting more and more beautiful!

Susan: It was worth the wait and the butterfly was so bright and pretty.

Pam: Thank you - love that pic too - the light on the chrysalis was just right! I've been using my little Olympus for these close up pics - the Rebel is too hard to get a close focus - guess I need to get a macro lens.

Michelle: I've looked for these for years! Would find a big fat caterpillar ready to pupate almost and then it would disappear! I was just really lucky this time.

Mojoman: There's lots of pics and videos out there if you go looking. What I like especially about mine is that it was *natural* - love the greenery in the background of all the pics.

samtzmom: Glad you liked the show and thanks for your comment!

Linda: Anything beats a day at work. I told Debbie why I was taking off and she said, "I thought it was something good." Her loss - harummph! Knew you'd like the butterflies.

Patrick: Yep, it was neat! Have you seen any chrysalises in the butterfly garden at SHBO? Could be fun to watch one there until you have your own yard.

Jill: Thanks! It was fun and worth the time. I was so afraid I'd miss it!

Rondeau Ric: Nice to see you here - glad I took the day off too!

Naturewoman: Glad you liked it as much as I did. Not something you see everyday.

Endment: Thanks - if you're looking for a nice book about butterflies (cause I know you like books ;-) ) look for An Obsession with Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell - nicely writen.

Egret's Nest: Thanks for stopping by!

Sandy: Do show them! I made lots of the neighborhood kids look - not sure that it impressed them much, but it should have.

Ruth: Thanks for visiting. The pics your daughter took are gorgeous - I missed seeing when the butterfly first came out with its crumpled wings and swolen body. Would you ask your daughter how long it looked *fat* like that? I'm curious how long it takes for the body to get skinny.

Anonymous said...

Breathtaking!

-Madcap

Patrick Belardo said...

Laura,

Every time I look at SHBO, I don't see them. Have you found them? I did find one last year in the window looking south (the right hand one). It was up in the corner. No clue how it got there. I think it was gone the next time I looked.

ruth said...

The pictures on my web page of our butterfly were taken 23 minutes apart. My daughter took a whole series of pictures in this time period. The swollen body was visibly elongating within 5 minutes.

Laura said...

I really admire you for taking the day off from work to watch your 'baby' emerge. Most people just don't care and/or are oblivious to the miracles in the world around them. Did you get all tear-y when he flew away??

silverlight said...

Pure magic.
And there are people who don't beleive in magic.
Wonderful pics. too.

LauraHinNJ said...

Madcap: Thanks - it was!

Patrick: I used to find them in the butterfly garden at Owl Haven - never at SHBO. The caterpillars will set up in some odd places. There is a blog I read that has pics of a chrysalis on the inside edge of a coffee can!

Thanks, Ruth. I missed that part with mine because the body was skinny when I saw it first. Amazing how they pump fluid from the abdomen into their wings.

Laura: I'll probably never get lucky enough to find one that I can watch through the whole process again. I had to see it all if possible. Really neat and I was teary-eyed when it emerged!

Silverlight: It was magical and I'm thrilled with the pics I got.

Deb said...

I showed up a bit late for this post, but that was simply amazing! What a wonderful experience; I'm glad you could share it.

robin andrea said...

Also arriving late to the monarch party, but had to say what a fantastic series of photos. We don't have monarchs here, so it's been a real joy to see them on blogs. Well done, laura.

dguzman said...

Beautiful photos, lucky you! I don't know whether I'll catch mine eclosing, but your photos are great. Thanks!

Fiona Bun said...

Just lovely. Nature is amazing.

LauraHinNJ said...

Thanks, Deb and Robin! Sharing it was half the fun.

dguzman: Do you still expect yours to eclose on Sunday?

Fiona Bun: Amazing yes! And to think these *little* miracles go on around us everyday.