if you blink…

i must’ve blinked because i missed it… twice!

well hello there...
well hello there...

a while back i bought an Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) that came with a few of its own Danaus plexippus (monarch) caterpillars.  the guy who sold it to me was kind enough to throw them in for free.  while i contemplated where to plant it (yes, these decisions can sometimes take several days) one of the caterpillars decided to build its pupa (or chrysalis) on one of the Asclepias’ leaves:

plant jewelry
plant jewelry - see the gold flecks and the wings inside?

not wanting to disturb this stage of metamorphosis, i decided to forgo planting and instead heeled it into an empty space in the garden to help maintain the moisture level in the container.  everyday i’d go check on her (yes, you can tell from a mark on the pupa if it’s a boy or girl butterfly) to see if there was any visible wing development.  then i had to take a field trip to san antonio, and when i came back she was gone, just a shell of the pupa remained.  happy trails to mexico, miss butterfly.

after that bittersweet discovery, i planted the Asclepias.  a few days later i noticed four more big BIG monarch caterpillars munching on the now aphid-covered leaves.  yippee, more chances to observe metamorphosis…

a monarch caterpillar on its food of choice, Asclepias tuberosa
a monarch caterpillar on its food of choice, Asclepias tuberosa

but after several days, i didn’t see a sign of them anywhere…  did a bird eat them?  no, supposedly birds don’t find them palatable.  it wasn’t until we were working on turf elimination round one that we noticed a caterpillar in an upside down question mark hanging from a column on the front porch:

the caterpillar selects a site to pupate
the caterpillar selects a site to pupate

not an hour later when we came back from lunch, it had turned itself into a  jade-colored beauty.  amazing…

the butterfly-to-be hangs from its cremaster and spun silk
the butterfly-to-be hangs from its cremaster and spun silk

and then i noticed another, under the sill of the front door:

Danus plexippus_0171
an interesting choice of hibernating ground

that was a week or so ago.  when i went out to water some plants this morning and checked on them i gasped, as this was all i saw of them:

chrysalis remains
pupa remains
scale relationship
scale relationship

i missed them!  oh, happy trails to you too… i hope you come back and visit.  next time we’ll have even more Asclepias for you to munch on.

for more info on these lovely creatures, check out monarch watch.


7 thoughts on “if you blink…

  1. WOW! Cool AND educational 🙂 I love that first picture. But…where did the other caterpillars come from after you brought them home? More Asclepias please!

    • i’m not sure where the others came from… – i’m guessing they were hiding in the container and decided to move out after i planted it? but they were so BIG…? yes, more Asclepias, i’m thinking of a yellow one next… :0

  2. beautiful recording of your guests, and extra points for getting to use the word cremaster in a sentence!
    the cocoon is remarkable. great sleuthing, fox.

    • thanks lyn! i had a bunch of swallowtail caterpillars that descended upon us after the monarchs, but i wasn’t able to locate their chrysalises, and have yet to see a mature butterfly… one of these days they’ll show up!

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