Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"I've Got Me Under My Skin"

I got lucky.

When I got up this morning, the first thing I did was head outside to the garden to check the Monarch caterpillar. He was still hanging in the 'J' position! That meant my vigil would continue, in hopes of being able to witness the transformation into a chrysalis.

Each time I would go out to move the sprinkler, I'd check on the caterpillar, and about mid-morning, I noticed its color had made subtle changes to a duller tone. It had gotten slightly fatter and it seemed to be doing some chewing. Around 11:30, I leaned down to take a look, and half of his skin was already off and inching upwards.

He was wiggling and writhing and in an instant, the skin fell to the ground.
The wiggling occurs as the chrysalis tries to push its cremaster (or pupa stalk) up into the silk button, holding him to the underside of the leaf. The cremaster has barbs on it that help secure the chrysalis to the leaf.

The wriggling continued for a minute or so, and I managed to get some video of that:

(There are better videos on YouTube of the entire process. I highly recommend those by hoppenberg.)

Once the skin was off, the chrysalis was obviously wet and needed to harden. That took a couple of hours and during this time, the chrysalis is very vulnerable to anything that might come into contact with it. In about 7-14 days, the chrysalis will have undergone great changes and the adult Monarch butterfly will emerge. There then will be a long journey ahead for it, as it travels to Mexico for the winter.

This evening, our neighbors, who are the parents of three children, came down to get another Monarch caterpillar from our garden that's just about ready to pupate. They home school their kids and they'll put the caterpillar in a glass bowl to observe as it goes through the stages from caterpillar to butterfly, just as we did last year.

I wished them luck and asked them to give me a call when it's doing its thing, because if I see this a hundred times, I'll never tire of witnessing the miracle that is the Monarch.


Anonymous said...

very terrific! Most people don't get to see that happen. He didn't seem to be bothered at all that you were there.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Kylee, you have captured a miracle.

Shady Gardener said...

Kylee, Do you feel privileged to have witnessed (and recorded!) this wonderful event? Thank you so much for sharing!!! I've gone through all the stages, but never been able to actually watch the "wiggle/change!" :-)

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

I really needed to read this post today! It has lifted my spirits, as all your monarch posts do. Funny how a caterpillar does that to me.


Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

That is so cool! I loved the video. Never seen anything like it.

Frances, said...

Thanks for that Kylee. You are a font of information on the monarchs. I loved the sunflowers in the blue bottles too, so cheering. While we have many butterflies in our garden, I have never found a chrysalis, and have looked. Now the search will continue, do they usually stay on the plant they were munching on at the time?

Muum said...

I really enjoyed your Monarch pics and video! I'll have to show my young lady (hate to call her a kid anymore, she is 12/almost 13). Amazing stuff.

Benjamin Vogt said...

sweet pics and video, Kylee! I just love watching them do their thing, and like you, will never tire of the cool factor of this. I found three chrysalides under my deck this week--duh, shoulda' known to check there! I have 4 inside the house now, and a few females were outside Thursday and laid at least 8 eggs that I can see. That seems kinda late to me....

Linda aka Crafty Gardener said...

Amazing photos

Mooi Yan said...

Great photo, nice and sharp. First time for me to see this.

A Larrapin Garden said...

What a wonderful post! Beautiful photos of an amazing transformation. I'm watching the same in a glass jar on our dining room table -- where a Monarch is due to emerge in a few more days. I'll past about it at A Larrapin Garden once it happens.

Your blog is beautiful and I plan to visit often. Thanks so much for sharing.

Kylee Baumle said...

Anna ~ Oh he was oblivious to everything around him while he was doing his thing. I'm so glad I got to see it!

Lisa ~ I know! It was the neatest thing to watch.

Shady Gardener ~ Oh yes, I do indeed feel like I've been witness to a very special event. I feel almost like a Monarch Mom! LOL.

Cindy ~ I totally understand, Cindy! This whole process has made me smile countless times!

Mr McGregor's Daughter ~ It's amazing what goes on in our gardens that we don't know about!

Frances ~ No, they don't stay on the Asclepias when they become a chrysalis. They crawl away, to some location that they feel is safe. I've never found a chrysalis on the Asclepias. My mom is "babysitting" 16 chrysalides in the butterfly house at the children's garden and not one of them is on the Asclepias. Keep looking!!

Muum ~ It IS amazing! I can't believe I've gone through my life this far and hadn't seen this before!

Ben ~ I've got three chrysalides inside right now, after watching two "hatch" earlier this week, also inside. I've not been able to find any eggs, though I've looked. Yes, that does seem late, but we had a late one last year. The butterfly didn't emerge until October.

Crafty Gardener ~ Thanks! It was amazing to watch.

Mooi yan ~ It was the first time for me to see that, too!

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