Butterfly metamorphosis is one of nature’s most spectacular spectacles. I’ve always wanted to see the whole cycle, and this fall the yard cooperated. It started with nine caterpillars feasting on the milkweed.
Five survived to maturity. One by one they stopped eating, anchored their last pair of legs with silk, and slipped into the characteristic upside-down pose that precedes a monarch caterpillar’s final molt.
Then they began their transformation.
One died before completing its molt…
…but the other four safely hardened into chrysalises, where they remained for the next two weeks.
One by one they emerged, the first during the morning of October 10th and the last close to noon on October 11th.
I was too excited to remember my camera, most of the time, so I only have a few photos for three of the four.
But I managed to capture a full sequence for one of the monarchs. The following slideshow covers a period from September 25th to October 11th.
All four butterflies struggled in their first moments of flight, crashing a few times as they tested their wings.
But after a few hours of short flights with long rests between, all four took to the air and fluttered off in search of nectar.
I wished, in the moments after watching them leave the yard, that they might stay a while longer. Then I took a deep breath and wished them warm winds to ease their southward journey.
Whatever fate finds my four butterflies, their brief weeks in the yard contributed something permanent and lovely to my world. I hope they thrive during their long migration, and I hope they stop as often as possible, each time bringing something lovely into someone else’s world.
Awesome that you were able to catch the entire metamorphosis! Miracles do happen!
It was the most fun I had all summer! 🙂
The photos really captured my attention. I raised my first cat to wing this year. I think I may have read (her) a few bedtime stories to pass the time. Thank you for sharing. I really like your perspective.
I didn’t think to read them bedtime stories! Hopefully I’ll get another chance next summer… 🙂
Your writing about and photos of the process of Monarch caterpillars transforming into high fliers is near and dear to my heart. Very well presented. Thank you!!
The monarchs have worked their way into my heart, too. Every photo I see of monarchs moving south makes me wonder if my four will survive the winter. And I’m already itching for spring, eager to plant more milkweed and a few butterfly-friendly nectar producers. Perhaps next year will bring even more monarchs into the yard!
What tender patience. And such lovely photos.
I can’t claim too much patience on this one. I was very eager for the butterflies to emerge, and more than once I leaned close to their chrysalises and whispered, “How’s it going? Will you need much longer?” 🙂
Absolutely gorgeous photos!
Thank you! 🙂