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.