OK. I’ll admit it. The Outdoors Guy’s outdoors’ interests have gotten into my system… at least a little bit.
Still, I haven’t changed from my girly-girl interests as much as does a caterpillar when it metamorphoses into a butterfly.
Two weeks ago, I noticed a caterpillar creeping across the pot of one of our ferns on the patio. The next day, a green chrysalis hung precariously toward the bottom of the pot. I wondered how it could hold on in strong winds and rainy weather. I needn’t have been concerned. It has hung from that thin strand, attached by something stronger than Super Glue, through days of high winds, heavy rain, and even when I move the pot out of the way for our “Mow Joes.”
That same evening, I discovered another caterpillar inching its way across our patio steps. The next morning, a second chrysalis hung from the top step by our patio door. I knew this one would require taking extra precaution so neither Bob nor I accidentally dislodged it.
Also, that evening, I saw yet another green chrysalis dangling from our landscape edging and still a fourth suspended under a hydrangea leaf.
I have noticed a number of chrysalis over the years, but never four in such close proximity and so easily visible.
I’ll admit it. I always thought butterflies hatch from cocoons. However, through my research for this blog, I learned, “butterflies hatch from chrysalis, a life stage made of a hardened protein.” In contrast, “A cocoon is spun from silk and surrounds the pupa of many moths.”
Not knowing how long it takes for caterpillars’ metamorphosis, I searched websites for info because even The Outdoors Guy wasn’t sure.
I learned from one website by Lynn Rosenblatt, Monarch Butterfly USA, there are five generations of monarchs in a single year. Then, the process begins again.
“The total time frame for one butterfly’s life cycle (one generation) is about 6-8 weeks… egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly. It grows inside the egg for about 4 days. It then munches milkweed and grows as a monarch caterpillar (larvae) for about 2 more weeks. The caterpillar’s life inside the chrysalis (pupa) lasts about 10 days and its life as an adult butterfly lasts from 2-6 weeks.”
According to the website Science Learning Hub, ”A monarch larva moults 5 times. The final moult reveals an adult butterfly. The enlarged abdomen is full of fluid. The butterfly pumps the fluid into its crumpled wings until they become full and stiff.”
Returning to Monarch Butterfly USA website, I learned “The 5th generation… does NOT mate or die in 2-6 weeks. In November/December, the monarch’s inner compass directs it to MIGRATE south and this generation will live 4-5 months in Mexico or Southern California. They begin awakening and mating in March of the NEXT SPRING, and then lay their eggs! Withered and tattered from their migration and hibernation… they finally die.”
I was excited when I went out to the patio on Sept. 17 and discovered the second chrysalis had its final moult. It was hanging on the edge of the step, fluttering its wings, with the chrysalis shell next to it. I checked on the monarch several times, always finding the it in the same spot. Finally, a couple hours later I witnessed this magnificent creature take its maiden flight! Awesome!
The first chrysalis is still dangling from the flower pot as is the one hanging from the landscape edging.
Sadly, the fourth chrysalis, the one suspended under a hydrangea leaf, will not have its final moult. When I first discovered it, the chrysalis was black. I thought that seemed strange, but wondered if it was a different kind of butterfly.
However, according to the Missouri Botanical Gardens Butterfly School website, “Pupae” (when the caterpillar is in chrysalis its called a pupa) may die instead of completing the transformation into butterflies. A black or very dark chrysalis could indicate that the pupa died. If you gently bend the chrysalis at the abdomen and it remains bent, the pupa's probably dead.”
Tentatively, I did as instructed. Not only did the chrysalis remain bent, it felt empty...kind of like I felt at that moment. It was another lesson for me in nature’s ways. Some aren’t always easy to comprehend or accept.
Yet, there is a plan. “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven - a time to give birth and a time to die.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
It is not our job to understand. God only asks us to accept HIS divine will. By believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, who did His Father’s will and died and rose from the dead to pay for the sins of the world, we will be saved. Then, unlike the monarch’s incredibly short life cycle, or our unpredictable earthly life span, we will be forever with the Lord. Even the wonders of nature can’t compare!!!
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9.