In the words of a local butterfly mentor, Linda best described the wonder of these images I captured earlier this spring:
“From a side view, the chrysalis of the magnificent Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly resembles a miniature prehistoric dragon head. The chrysalis can be a vivid shade of lime green or a mottled grayish brown, suspended on a twig or stick by a monofilament of silk to hold it securely in place until the butterfly is ready to emerge. It then begins to turn dark, revealing the wing pattern and body of the soon to be butterfly. Once freed of its enclosure, it will pump fluid into its wings, making them strong enough to carry the butterfly on the wind or beat a hasty retreat, to nectar plants for sustenance, to begin the life cycle again. The four life stages of a butterfly are truly a remarkable manifestation of Mother Nature’s handiwork.”
Author of “Gone Astray”, “Silent Meow” and NEWLY PUBLISHED “Lost and Found Cats” www.felinefiction.com
Early this year, I collected five Pipevine swallowtail eggs from the host plant, a vine (Pipevine) trellised in my garden just for this purpose. Raised indoors due to freakish late killing frosts in March/April, three eggs would fit on the the head of a pin. Tiny. When fed fresh host plant leaves indoors, they grew rapidly in a lettuce container placed in the bay window. The small dots you see in this photo is frass, or butterfly poop. I emptied the frass many times per day and kept leaves fresh. Caterpillars cannot see nor hear. They just eat and poop. If left in the wild, merely three out of one-hundred would survive to maturity. Predation is rampant. Therefore I do my part to help these beauties survive. About two weeks later, they climbed on the skewers I supplied, and formed their chrysalises. Despite the cold swings outdoors, they rested comfortably indoors.
This is one Pipevine chrysalis, formed last fall. I stored it in the unheated garden shed over winter, and brought it inside with five of its mates this spring, where they all emerged as butterflies. See what emerged a few minutes later below…
Notice the different shapes created by the same kind of swallowtail. This one is especially spectacular. The color and shape happened before my eyes. Have you ever seen this transformation? These photos were taken in natural light and the camera was hand-held. If you sew or paint, I am sure you will appreciate this image.
Amazing, yes? Notice the wee silk thread created by the caterpillar before it transformed into a chrysalis. This is one fine form of engineering!
This pair is from the same group, yet completely different in color. This I cannot explain. They all emerged successfully two weeks later and I hope that they all live a complete cycle…another two short weeks. In fact this morning, one Pipevine was back at the vine laying eggs. Who knows if it was one of mine. The circle continues.
Voila! The overwintered Pipevine emerges! After a while its wings engorge with fluid, and within a short time, it is ready to fly.
Another view of spent chrysalis with emerged butterfly resting outside. Over the years, I have raised hundreds of Monarchs and various Swallowtails. They each have a particular life cycle. Learning their ways, caring for them, and seeing them at first flight is a hobby that never fails to delight. When all things come together in perfect harmony, Mother Nature rewards us with miracles.
To these special moments, I cling, while the rest of the planet is currently crazed.
See more of my many butterfly photos and posts by typing Monarch into the search bar on this blog. Butterflies are quite magical, fragile, and fleeting. Similar to life itself.
Let me hear from you in the comments section!
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