Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Monarch Ecloses (feat. video)


The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
Rabindranath Tagore

A little over two weeks ago, I was walking through the garden and happened to notice that a large-sized monarch caterpillar was munching on the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). I decided to take it inside our house so we could watch it become an adult butterfly. 


We've done this several times before, but it had been a few years. If you're one of those people who thinks it's wrong to interfere with Mother Nature this way, consider this: fewer than 5% of monarchs ever survive from egg to adulthood. Predators abound at every step of the way and in most cases, bringing them in at any stage and giving them proper care increases their chance of survival. (Emphasis on "proper care.")
A couple of days after I brought the caterpillar in, it went into the "J" formation...



...and later in the day, shed its skin for the fifth and final time, becoming an emerald green chrysalis.

Day 12:  You can begin to see the monarch's wings through the chrysalis.

A monarch caterpillar can take anywhere from 9-14 days, on average, to metamorphose into an adult butterfly and eclose (emerge from its chrysalis). Though I've seen the process in person several times, it never fails to thrill me to watch it again and again. And this time, I was hoping to video the eclosure.

On Day 15, I knew that "birth" was imminent, because the chrysalis had become completely clear and I could see signs of the butterfly pulling away from the inner walls. And then I noticed a vertical crack...




The video has some blurry parts, but overall I'm happy to have been able to capture the first moments in this monarch's life as a butterfly.



Most monarchs eclose by noon, which gives them enough time for the wings to harden and for them to figure out whether they want to fly around or spend a cool night roosting in a shrub or tree. Since ours didn't eclose until 1:15, and it was to get down to 43° last night, we decided to keep Miss Monica in the upstairs bathroom until today.

It's a beautiful, calm, sunny 70° day here in northwest Ohio - much better for a fresh, young butterfly to take its first flight. Though there's enough time for her to mate and produce offspring that would migrate to Mexico - it takes 30 days from egg to adult - I think it's more likely that she will make the 2200-mile trip herself. 

Be well, Monica.  Safe travels.




10 comments:

Karin / Southern Meadows said...

Very cool! Thanks for sharing! We've watched caterpillars form their chrysalis but never witness one eclose.

vbdb said...

Watching this never gets old - thanks for keeping her safe and helping Miss Monica on her way.

Jean said...

Kylee....How exciting is that? I think you are probably right...Miss Monica probably is safely on her way to Mexico for the winter. I think so amazing that butterflies and hummingbirds can fly all that way. Thanks for sharing with us~!

Wall Flower Studio said...

Absolutely fantastic, Kylee. Well done!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Simply amazing.

garden girl said...

We used to bring them in all the time, back when I was a kid and they were so plentiful - such a miracle to watch. Wonderful story, and video, Kylee. May Miss Monica have a long, happy life, and make lots and lots of babies.

MulchMaid said...

That is just lovely, Kylee - both the video and your thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing it!

Amy Junod said...

Today's post made me smile so! Miss Monica is a beauty.

Christa atCedarmereFarm said...

Kylee, THAT IS AMAZING! Thank you for videotaping the process. After reading about their low survival rate in nature, I decided to take 7 (that I could find) away from their natural environment 2 days ago. This morning, I saw one in the J form. I wasn't sure what happened. Thanks to you (I just opened your comment a few minutes ago), I now know that my little guy is ok and even more fun is that I will actually witness a miracle very soon. Thank you. I am going to follow you. Christa

RobinL said...

Oh my, that was wonderful! Oh how I love those dear little butterflies. I have yet to find a monarch chrysalis, but I'll try harder next year.

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