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!
a return Visit
9 months ago