In mid-August we found a bunch of Monarch caterpillars on a patch of milkweed out in the back 40 (OK, the back two). We watched one late one evening that looked like it was going to metamorphose, but darkness fell before anything happened. So I went back out the next morning to check, and it was gone--no caterpillar, no chrysalis, nothing. So we got out an old aquarium, cut some milkweed, and gathered up several large caterpillars, who then lived in our dinning room for several weeks.
Over the course of those weeks we added a few more, and several of our first batch went through their cycle, changing from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. We somehow managed to miss the drama each time, but finally one morning we caught one in the act.
It had gone into "J" the night before, having secured itself to a stick with fine silk. It hung there all night, and was still in J the next morning.
An hour or so later, it had straightened out a bit. Lori and I watched closely.
Then, a split at the back of the head! Here we go!
When it reached this point it thrashed around violently, until the dead skin, now way up by its foot, fell to the bottom of the tank.
As it settled, the wings, seen here on the left, stretched out along its sides, and it began to harden.
Eventually it looked like this, one from an earlier batch. Note the gold markings. Just a spectacular creature.
The whole process took about an hour. Fourteen days or so later, we caught one of its counterparts, who had become a chrysalis just before this one, emerge as a butterfly. Check back next time for its emergence.