10 Mar

It’s Beautiful!

18 days ago, our caterpillar shed it’s skin and became a chrysalis. The next day, the chrysalis had smoothed out to look like this:

The weather turned cool and rainy and I read that caterpillars/butterflies can overwinter in pupa or chrysalis stage, so I resigned myself for a possible long wait. But then the last two days have been warm. After my walk this morning, I went out to look at the chrysalis and it had changed color.

I wasn’t sure if this was because it was camouflaging itself against the now fuller coleus plant, if it was a dud, or if it was about to hatch. I’d heard the hatching happens relatively quickly, but figured on an hour or two. I went in the house to read my email and when I returned a half hour later, look who had emerged:

I’m sad to have missed the actual “birth” of the butterfly, but I am overjoyed that it made it through it’s complete cycle and once again, nature has worked her magic. I sat impatiently for the butterfly to warm up it’s wings — which was infinitely longer than it took to emerge from it’s cocoon. It flitted to a few sunny spots to warm up some more (not helped by me chasing it with the camera) and then flew off.

Now all that’s left is the empty shell:

21 Feb

“It’s Chrysalising!” (said my son)

For anyone still anxiously awaiting caterpillar news, it’s good! I’ve been keeping a close watch on the last caterpillar standing. I’ve noticed interesting behavior too. You’d probably expect a caterpillar to just go randomly about a tree munching anything in it’s path. Nope. Ours seems to have found a favorite leaf to call home (large and relatively sheltered from sun and wind) and then it goes out on food forays, systematically eating all the leaves on a branch. Once satiated each day, it returns to the home leaf for a rest before venturing out again for the next leaf on the branch. Here’s how it looked shortly after I last blogged:

Yesterday, I noticed that it had left it’s home leaf, but instead of heading out for a bite to eat, it worked it’s way down the tree and onto the stem of a ceramic flower I had “planted” in the pot.

Since it had turned from poopy to green in less than four hours, I expected this change to happen rather quick too and watched closely. Over the course of the day, it seemed to compress. It also spit up a little silk sling to hold itself in place, and “let go” of the wire stalk.

And that was it. Instead of a chrysalis this morning, it looked just the same. I admit I was disappointed. However, I think it’s metamorphosis may be temperature dependent. As a sort of aside, my son mentioned this morning that caterpillars have the chrysalis inside them and must shed their outer skin to expose it. Hmmm. I’m not sure where he learned that, but when we returned from shopping mid-day (and the yard was nice and sunny), the caterpillar was wriggling wildly and indeed seemed to be pushing something down it’s body. We were witness to the last bit:

And something definitely did drop off the end of the chrysalis:

And now we have a beautiful, still, chrysalis which will hopefully become an equally beautiful butterfly.

To be continued…

20 Jan

A Gift

Two days ago, Neighbor Girl brought me a gift. Actually, she said it was for all of us — I just get to be the keeper. She found a chrysalis in her yard!

I am unclear as to whether or not she plucked it off a plant or not. She made it sound like it was just sitting there. Regardless, I am apparently the keeper of the all things caterpillar and she brought it to our house on a Styrofoam “platter.” It is smaller than our caterpillar who went missing in the wind storm, so I’m not sure if this is the same caterpillar, relocated, or if it’s a caterpillar previously unknown to us. I have been sworn to watch over the chrysalis and to alert all neighbor kids to the butterfly as soon as it emerges. For lack of any better spur-of-the-moment ideas, it has been ensconced under a protective dome and our collective fingers are crossed that we’ll see a butterfly in about 10 days.

This is my little contribution to hope and change on this auspicious day.