Monthly Archives: August 2021
Here you can see he’s getting angular. Clearly something is going on inside. I’ll paraphrase from this gory article. Enzymes are digesting the caterpillar! Inside him are embryonic-type cells growing called “imaginal disks.” One imaginal disk will become, for example, a wing; a butterfly has 4 wings. There are imaginal disks that form the legs, antennae, and other parts.
Inside this thing, until a few days ago, was a — yuck — “bag of rich fluid media” that the cells started growing on. He has been getting shorter.
“The entire internal contents of the caterpillar — the muscles, the entire digestive system, even the heart…the nervous system — is totally rebuilt. It’s like you took your…Ford into the shop and left it there for a week and it came out as a Cadillac.“
What’s nerve racking is the black line at top. I can’t tell if it’s a discoloration or an open slit. There are parasites that bore a hole, but I’ve read nothing about a slit.
I add this shot because it shows a little better that the dots along the slit are an exquisite gold that goes beautifully with the chrysalis’ green.
The nail biter continues, folks. I do hope he’s still alive in there, parasite-free. This is why we don’t watch nature shows. Who can take the anxiety?
It won’t be long now, either way. We’ll know by Friday, you and I.
To refresh (from 7th grade science class?), butterflies go through four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult butterfly.
Friend says: 8-14 days till he emerges. He is on Day 7 and the chrysalis is getting lumpier, pointier. I believe the wings are forming inside! I’ll report how in the next post.
Cool feature: you know when he’s about to hatch because the chrysalis turns black or clear. Then it’s about 48 hours. Can’t wait.
He or she? The gender story is complicated.
A friend told me how her young sons pick a caterpillar from a milkweed plant every year. They put it into a container with some milkweed leaves for sustenance, and mesh over the top.
Crazily, the next day, this guy crawled towards me as I sat on our steps. I texted my friend a photo; she confirmed this was indeed a monarch caterpillar.
No idea what he was thinking, there was no greenery whatsoever in the direction he was headed. I grabbed the only container I could find. Clearly, the Forces had sent him my way.
It wasn’t a great container, but I was in a rush, afraid a bird would grab him.
He didn’t like it in there too much. He curled into a sad lump despite my careful selection of soil with clover growing in it. My friend said I needed some milkweed leaves and a stick for him to hang off of to do his thing.
Sure enough, he sprung to action.
You can see this is basically the container you get sesame noodles in. Not roomy. How was I to move him to something larger without causing permanent mental damage to us both?
Turned out I didn’t have to move him. Because I saw him that evening hanging upside down from the twig, shaped like the letter “J.”
I wondered, what’s he doing in there, man? I should have stuck around…taken some video…because look what I awoke to the next morning. I know I can watch it on YouTube, but I could have seen it live for God’s sake. It’s astonishing.
As my friend put, “They are like babies being born — always seem to do it at midnight!”
I don’t know what the heck is going on inside that chrysalis, but will research and report in for you. Honestly, how does it HAPPEN? How does he coat his entire self with silk? For that one, watch the short, time-lapsed link above from Fish and Wildlife.
This is how we know there’s something greater than ourselves in the cosmos. Stay tuned.
In this case, to get to the swamp on the other side. Which begs the question, why wasn’t he there in the first place?
After I held him high and showed him the swamp (“Head off in that direction, buddy; do not turn around!”), he let me see his cool little face. That, or he was preparing for attack. No idea if he was a snapper. But I think not.
Pretty much everyone that happened by was thinking, “For God’s sake, lady, quit taking photos and get him out of the road.” There are few things sadder than a crushed turtle.
Off to his new home. I hope. I didn’t stick around. Brief interventions with nature are best, no?
[And if you think that was exciting, wait till you see tomorrow’s mind-blowing intervention! It’s a night blooming cereus – grade nail biter that will go on for days.]