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