The miracle of metamorphosis

In my last post, I mentioned that I had been working with monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars when I spied that little jumping spider. My good photofriend Laura Macky expressed eager anticipation of a new post featuring them, so I’ve moved it up to the front burner. By way of background, my elder daughter, Squiddy, is very keen on sharing our mutual sense of natural wonder with her daughter, The Elf, who is approaching her third birthday. When I arrived in New Zealand a bit over a month ago, she had brought several caterpillars inside to harbor them safely in a terrarium, providing them with fresh branches from their favorite plant every couple of days.

Monarch caterpillar 7002This one, which I photographed outside, was scarcely longer than one centimeter.  They grew very fast, and soon developed into large, fat stages that were nearly ten times as long.

Monarch caterpillar 7090Monarch caterpillar 7105Monarch caterpillar 7192Monarch caterpillar 7153One that she had moved to safe quarters inside had formed a chrysalis that was nearly ready to split to release adult stage, unmistakable because of its translucency, which provided a clear view of the orange and black wings that were nearly ready to unfold.

Chrysalis 6912During the course of my visit, I had ample opportunity to study various stages of the butterflies’ development, lacking only images of the eggs.

Drying emerger 6902As the adults finally emerged, we relocated them to perches on one of Squiddy’s Fuchsia plants adjacent to the deck, where the breeze helped to dry the unfolding wings and provided the new butterflies with easy access to the world beyond.

Wing spread 6971For this last shot, I waited patiently in the hot sun for nearly 20 minutes for a chance to catch it with its wings in one of its first-ever expanded attempts.  [Please click on an image if you’d like to see a larger one with higher resolution and greater detail.]

About krikitarts

Welcome to Krikit Arts! I'm a veterinarian; photographer; finger-style guitarist, composer, instructor, and singer/songwriter; fisherman; and fly-tyer. Please enjoy--and please respect my full rights to all photos on this Website!
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16 Responses to The miracle of metamorphosis

  1. Vicki says:

    How lucky you were patient enough to catch each stage and share with us.
    Hope The Elf realises how lucky she to have such a wonderful family to guide her in her first Nature Observations.
    (Give them a love of nature at the earliest age and I know they will carry it with them through their whole life).

    • krikitarts says:

      I consider myself very lucky that I had the time to devote to the study and observation. And yes, the Elf was following their development as well–she’s off to a great start.

  2. Super experience to get to watch this unfold, Gary. It is saddening to think that this miracle is on the decline here in the U.S. We try to encourage milkweed to grow in the yard and have seen it succeed with attracting a few, but a lot more are needed for the numbers to return.
    Thanks for sharing these.

  3. Mike Powell says:

    What an amazing series of images, Gary. I have observed only a couple of stages of the development of a Monarch and it is really cool to see this miraculous metamorphosis through your images–it must have been even more incredible to watch it in real life.

    • krikitarts says:

      I hadn’t realized that the transformation from the larval caterpillar to the adult in the chrysalis happens in only 10 days to two weeks. It starts out an opaque spring green and gradually turns glass-clear. Then it takes only a few hours for the adult’s wings to unfold and it’s ready to fly. What a beauty to behold!

  4. This is a beautiful series of photos – the clarity is amazing! My son’s girlfriend’s mother does the same thing. She is a kindergarten teacher, and she brings the caterpillars in to the classroom so that the little ones can learn about the transformation process.

    • krikitarts says:

      I did the same thing as a boy. My first was a polyphemus moth, and it took over half a year for the adult to hatch from its cocoon. I’ll never forget the day it did!

  5. Adrian Lewis says:

    Absolutely incredible pictures, Gary, really good stuff! Adrian

  6. lauramacky says:

    Ahhhhh…happy camper now. It’s beautiful!

  7. Ogee says:

    How amazing! And what patience. Thanks for sharing.

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