Monday, October 18, 2010


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.


  1. WOW WOW WOW! Fabulous photography and patience, Marie (and Lori). I posted today and am back to my post to drop a comment for readers to please come see your remarkable photos...and, if you get a chance, drop by Sage to Meadow (listed in blogs to right of my blog) to see Jack's Monarch photos.

  2. This is so amazing. Thank you.

  3. Thanks, Kittie, will do. Thanks too, Thyra!

  4. Very impressive. Love the detail and closeups.

  5. Absolutely remarkable!! This brought back a rush of memories -- I used to spend time 'way up in northern MN with grndprnts... Grandpa had a way of pointing 'things' out to us when we went out for walks-in-the-country! On one such visit/walk, a caterpillar-on-milkweed was brought to our attention. He cut the branch; we took it home and observed exactly what you have captured in your photos!! Of course, seeing the butterfly emerge was such a treat, but I think taking in the whole process is incredible! Thank you for sharing!! :) (p.s. I'm here from The Block/KittieHoward's rcmmdtn)