Archive for August 10th, 2013

The Miraculous Transformation — Part 1

August 10, 2013

OK, I had 18 chrysalises, as detailed in my last post. They all hatched over a space of 5 days starting on July 28. In order to keep this entry from being extremely long (in which case I will probably never get around to posting it!), I’ll do it in several steps, by day.

July 28

On this day, only one butterfly hatched — chrysalis 16, the one handing from the overhead beam in the entryway. I actually saw it emerge, but unfortunately my camera was being recharged! I tried to take some pictures with my phone, but only this one came out:

This is a female.

July 29

On this day four butterflies emerged — numbers 1, 2, 4, and 6. I was actually able to film the emergence of #2!

The first to come out was #4 — the one behind the decomposed granite box:

This is a male.

This is a male.

Next came #1:

Just emerging.

Just emerging.

A little further along. This is a female.

A little further along. This is a female.

Then came #2, the one I filmed. These two pictures, taken about 2 1/2 hours apart, show the progression of the chrysalis as it approaches zero hour:



And here is the video of #2 emerging from the chrysalis:

I found this fascinating to watch up close! It was especially notable to me to see how, when the butterfly first drops down, it is kept from dropping to the ground by bracing its legs against the inside of the chrysalis. It then has to immediately find a purchase on the outside of the chrysalis. Almost all the butterflies did this by grabbing onto the the ridges at the top of the chrysalis. It’s obvious, watching this, that this is the purpose of those ridges. In the cases where the ridges were not so well defined, the butterflies had difficulty and had to find something else to cling to to keep from falling. This is probably the most vulnerable moment of the butterfly’s existence to this point.

Here’s a few more pictures showing the unfolding in the next few minutes:




This is a male.

This is a male.

Butterfly #6, the one on my Aster plant, also hatched this day, but I was unable to get a good picture of it. It’s hard for my auto-focus camera to figure out what to focus on when the butterfly is in a thicket of stems and leaves, and I’m not adept enough to manually focus.

Male vs. Female

How do I know whether these butterflies are male or female? Well, searching the web brings up images such as this one:


But I did not see any butterflies that looked like the one at the top — leading me to believe, initially, that all my butterflies were female!

But the problem is, when butterflies emerge from the chrysalis, you hardly ever see them from that vantage point — with their wings spread out, from the top. Instead, you are seeing the underside of the wings as the butterflies sit, with the wings together, waiting for them to dry out. And it turns out that the veins on the wings look entirely different on the underside from how they look on the top side!

I finally found a way to distinguish between male and female by looking at the underside:

Left: male; Right: female

Left: male; Right: female

On the male, there is a slight bulge on the third vein from the bottom of the hindwing (arrow on right) — either there is a small notch halfway down, or the top part of the vein is notably thicker than the bottom. And the three veins noted by the left arrows are slightly thinner than on the female.

So, now you know how to sex Monarchs!