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Monday, February 23, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Chrysalis

Yesterday, I saw that the monarch chrysalis I found 5 days ago had changed; it's no longer green and you can see the butterfly inside through the clear membrane that still has its gold decorations. It's hanging from an old salvia stem close to the milkweed plant the caterpillars ate down to the nub.

I hoped to maybe catch the butterfly as it emerged so I went out to have a look about 7 this morning. It had already come out, under what my husband reported as being an "amazing turquoise sky" that I also missed by lingering in bed a bit too long. At first I didn't see the butterfly, and couldn't believe it had flown off already. It takes awhile for the wing veins to fill with fluid, expand the wings and harden so the newly emerged creature can take flight. I came back in a little while, though, and found it hanging from a salvia leaf. Later it was on top of the leaf fanning its wings, and later still I saw it fly off through the branches of the lemon verbena.

Watching the monarch fly away, I noticed another chrysalis hanging from one of those branches. It is also clear, showing the butterfly inside. Notice the silk attachment to the branch has weakened and the chrysalis is hanging by some threads. Will this butterfly emerge tomorrow? Will the silk threads be strong enough to hold it?

By the way it rained a little this morning as the butterfly was getting ready to fly. Are butterflies (or other molting/emerging insects) able to postpone their transition to avoid unfavorable weather? The small amount of rain we had obviously did not harm this butterfly; I would think a deluge, and especially cold rain, would be devastating to such a vulnerable creature.

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