Saturday, May 30, 2009

It won't be long now!

This morning around 8:30 I checked on the progress of the chrysalises (chrysalids? I'm not sure about the correct plural version!) in my critter cage. I was excited to see that the color of the wings is now visible and the chrysalis covering is beginning to separate from the butterfly. Unlike the caterpillar shedding its skin, there is no "advance warning" with the emergence of the butterfly. I've been lucky enough to see this process happen only 3 or 4 times in the past 23 years. Maybe I'll get lucky again today!
One chrysalis is still green, I would imagine it will be black tomorrow. It is amazing how fast it changes color once the process begins.

Later --- I KNEW if I went shopping the butterflies would emerge and, sure enough, they did! When I came home from the store around 1:30 PM there were 2 butterflies hanging under the container lid, a male and a female. I think the male was the first to emerge, because he was already holding onto the container lid. The female was still holding onto her empty chrysalis. It is easy to tell the difference between a male and female monarch butterfly. The male (right) has a black dot in the middle of one of the veins on the lower wings, they are just visible in this photo. I put the male on a flower when he began to spread his wings. He could probably use a little nectar by now! These butterflies will fly north, possibly as far as Canada. After they mate and the female lays her eggs, she will die. Later this summer we will see the "grandchildren" butterflies as they fly back south. They will lay eggs on the milkweed in late August or September, the butterflies from those caterpillars will fly to Mexico and spend the winter in the trees in the mountains not far from Mexico City. It is my dream to one day go there and see the masses of butterflies!

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