"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." ~ Richard BachMonarchs Part One: When What To My Wondering Eyes Did Appear
Monarchs Part Two: Monarch Happy Dance
Twelve days of dangling... twelve days of warmth in the sun and nights safe inside... twelve days of rest.... and anxious watchfulness on our part. The first emergence was a surprise, unexpected really... there was the butterfly, hanging onto the side of the habitat, pumping up his wings. We had missed the subtle changes in the cocoon and the final reveal. Determined not to miss another, I watched closely the other five chrysalides.
The first change is a slight blotchy color change with spots of black showing in the sides of emerald green. When this involves at least a fourth of the cocoon, then chances are the butterfly will emerge within 24 hours. Monarchs are nothing, if not punctual. While only a few emerged each day, all six broke out of their small prisons between 7 AM and 8:30 AM. Swallowtails just give you a general range of time... just "morning"... anywhere from between 6AM and 1 PM.... very hard to judge and capture the photos. But with the limited time line, the Monarchs show great consideration for the photographer.
It all happens so fast. The chrysalis is tissue paper thin and dark, allowing you to see the colors and black veins of the wings inside. There was little movement or wiggling, just a sudden small crack in the shell and the appearance of long black antennae, a head, crinkled tiny wings and a large abdomen that simply flops and falls out of the cocoon. Then they are here... limp wings waiting to be fluffed and pumped up by an inner hydraulic pump system. This takes perhaps a half an hour and then they simply love to hang onto the cocoon or the side of the habitat and dry.... every once in a while testing the wings. Within another hour, the Monarch is ready to fly, but they will cling to fingers and even clothing for that last second before lifting up onto the breeze and fluttering up to the tall trees. In the safety of the trees they finish off their final drying time and then it is off to see the world.
We could have one more batch of Monarchs before they begin their migration, but since most caterpillars are disappearing before I can get them inside, I am not sure if there will be more than these six this year. If we find any more caterpillars, they will definitely be in the group that emerge as butterflies but live longer to migrate to Mexico for the winter. At least I feel we did our part to replenish the numbers that had been destroyed by freak freezing in the past couple of years. And I plan to plant several more milkweed plants for next summer as well.
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