Archive for August 28th, 2013

The Miraculous Transformation — Part 3

August 28, 2013

July 30

Here’s one I missed from that day: Butterfly #3, the southernmost chrysalis hanging from the wall on the side of my house. She’s a good-sized butterfly — one of the caterpillars who managed to make it to a normal size before running out of food:

Just out

Just out

A little later. This one'a girl.

A little later. This one’a girl.

July 31

The first one out on this day was Butterfly #14, hanging from the concrete block on top of the wall:

Just out.

Just out.

I noticed something different about this butterfly almost immediately. Instead of grabbing on to the top of the chrysalis and hanging there for a bit, she was instead moving rapidly sideways on the concrete. This is most unusual — most butterflies attach themselves to the chrysalis and then sit there for the next few minutes pumping out their wings. But this one went some distance to the right, as you can see above, before settling down, and before pumping any fluid into her wings. After a bit, I moved the terrycloth above where she was sitting, and then she tried over and over to pull herself up onto it, but kept failing. At first I could not understand why — it just seemed as if she could not get a good grip on it.

Then I looked closer and noticed that on her right front leg, those two little “hooks” that a Monarch has at the end of its legs seemed to be missing!


That was the answer — I don’t know whether it was genetic, or if the little hooks got torn off when she tried to grab the concrete after emerging from the chrysalis. Whatever the reason, her right front leg was effectively a stump, of no use in holding on to anything.

She was very frustrated, trying over and over again to climb up onto the terrycloth. The normal way is for the butterfly to move “hand over hand” with its two front legs, and bring the hind legs along afterward. That was out of the question here, and I was very worried. But she eventually managed, as the above picture shows, to get enough traction on the terrycloth using her good front leg and one of her hind legs. There she stayed for a while, pumping fluid into her wings.

To add to the difficulty, it was a very windy day, and I constantly worried she was going to get blown off. Finally it happened, and she had to start flying before she was really ready. However, she successfully landed on one of my yarrow plants, and to my great relief, was able to crawl around successfully on the plant:


She seemed to have adjusted to just using her right front leg as sort of a crutch to hold herself up, while clinging with the other legs:


I think she will be fine!

The next one to emerge was Butterfly #15, the one that was hanging from my wheelbarrow. This was a fine big male. Here he is:

Just out

Just out


Up onto the terrycloth -- attaboy!

Up onto the terrycloth — attaboy!

August 1

Next came Butterfly #17 out of its tiny chrysalis on my Winifred Gilman sage. As expected, she was a tiny butterfly:

An inch and a half!

An inch and a half!

But otherwise she seemed fine.


While I was photographing #17, a couple of bees buzzed by in an odd configuration:


Either they are a mating pair, or some  Godzilla bee has kidnapped a normal bee. Anyone know anything about bees?

Finally, the last to emerge was Butterfly #5, the one that was pupating on my neighbor’s potted plant. This one was a lovely male:

Just out.

Just out.


After a bit he flew off and landed on one of my asters — whereupon he spread his wings like the magnificent creature he is, showing off for me. You can clearly see the characteristic “maleness,” with the two spots on the hindwings and the much thinner veins:


So there we have it — all eighteen butterflies hatched and flew off successfully! Monarchs have continued to show up in my yard — several a day usually. I suspect they are of this group. Some more eggs were laid on the milkweeds, and as of this writing there are about seven caterpillars in various stages of development. (The plants have grown back most of their leaves, fortunately, and I also purchased two more just in case!)

The truth is, in the summer California native gardens go dormant, and just about the only thing going on is the drama with the butterflies. The plants themselves look like ratty, spent versions of themselves. I probably won’t post much more until fall, when things start happening again — we start pruning and planting (fall is the planting season in California, anticipating the winter rains).

I have added a couple of things to the garden over the summer, and I may post about that pretty soon. And I may post about the next batch of Monarchs. Otherwise, I think I will go dormant too!