They hang, silent and still, for one to two weeks before the chrysalis darkens and I see wings. The birth (eclosure) takes seconds and I usually miss it, but I caught one last week.
A caterpillar becomes a chrysalis and inside that container of dissolving caterpillar nutrient broth, a Monarch takes shape to emerge as an adult. There’s nothing like it in the mammal world. This one is male.
The butterfly forms head down. When the chrysalis splits, his legs come out first and grab the chrysalis shell. Then he somersaults like a gymnast. That spiral on his head is the proboscis and it unfurls into a straw when he sips nectar, his only food source as a butterfly.
The body and wings unfurl and he hangs on his chrysalis for a few hours while his body and wings extend.
Then he slowly opens and closes his wings to dry them. In four hours or more, he’s ready to visit the butterfly garden and then to fly.
By the time this is posted, all the Monarchs will be gone for the season, beginning their 2,500 mile journey to Mexico for the winter. I’ve seen more in my fields this year than I have for decades–and most are not ones I raised. Monarchs are having a good year here. What thrilled your heart this summer? What brought you joy? What part of the natural world are you protecting?
For other posts about Monarchs, see Precious Transformation: Monarchs, Mystery, and Mythology. For a piece about supporting Milkweed growth, the only plants Monarch caterpillars eat, see Seeding the Cycles of Life.