Goodbye for 2022

Our last Monarch for 2022

We successfully raised nine (9) Monarch butterflies this season, leaving us feeling, “Let’s do more in 2023.” Today’s post cover is a portrait of the last. She flew yesterday, September 23rd, forty (40) feet up to the oak tree shading the back yard, lost to us in the leaves.

Her chrysalis is the second from right in the following family photograph.

Here are two videos of our last 2022 Monarch to emerge and the first.

Emergence of a Monarch butterfly from a chrysalis 4K UHD with relaxing music. A caterpillar attached itself with silk to hang by its two rear legs to transform to a green chrysalis. Fourteen days later the chrysalis shell becomes translucent. Inside the chrysalis the Monarch butterfly moves to shed the shell. The released insect’s abdomen pumps fluid, expanding the crumpled wings. The entire process takes twenty minutes, compressed in this video to about six (6) minutes.

A real time film of our first 2022 Monarch Butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, then expanding its wings in 4K UHD with relaxing music. The process takes twenty (20) minutes.

The butterfly emerges from the chrysalis about fourteen (14) days after setting. To the photographer needing to capture the moment a signal is the green, jewel-like chrysalis turns transparent, apparently darkening to reveal the compressed form of the butterfly. It can be hours before the insect breaks free, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr camera is used for this. I set it on a Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod (with ball head), a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L macro lens for optics. The Mark IV has WIFI and HD video capabilities, so I connected the camera to an Apple IPhone 7 using Canon software. Monitoring the transparent chrysalis in real time, I continually reset the video from the IPhone until the butterfly emerged. I used AVS video editor software to produce the film for YouTube publication.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Monarch Ready to Fly

Five wait off stage for their turn to fly.

This Monarch butterfly emerged from the chrysalis a few moments ago. A minimum of two hours is required for the wings to harden before release to the wild.

Five wait off stage for their turn to fly.

Rainy weather forced us to leave her resting a full 24 hours.

Here are two videos of a Monarch release from 2020.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Monarch Caterpillar to Chrysalis II

AKA the sixth moult

In my last series of “Monarch caterpillar transforming to chrysalis” time lapse photographs, the 30-minute time interval missed the moult. For this series, I set the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV to remote from a IPhone 7, tethering me to hanging around the house for an afternoon of waiting for the magic moment of “transformation” (more accurately called “the moult”), thinking through the nature of the moment.

A monarch caterpillar accomplishes seven body transformations shielded from view. Six within its skin: the first five retaining a caterpillar body configuration, the sixth transforming to chrysalis. For all six, an enveloping skin conceals the change. The same holds true for the seventh transformation. The chrysalis remains opaque green with bright gold spots until turning transparent after the transfiguration to butterfly is complete.

The sixth transformation happens when the fifth instar caterpillar, fully sated with milkweed, climbs to a perch, spins silk around a set of prolegs, affixing them from a horizontal surface from which to hang. For this set I captured the moult of two monarchs hanging side by side inside a mesh cage with an east facing window for light. Even though the day was sunny, with the f-stop set to the lens maximum (32) for the deepest field of view, ISO at 32,000 the energetic skin shedding movements of the chrysalis cause blurring.

For 10-12 hours of profound bodily configuration changes the hanging caterpillar hangs without movement. In the last image of this first set, the next caterpillar is blurred by initial moult movement.

My attempt to capture a video of the moult was frustrated by inadequate lighting, the result was too dark to use. I must solve this technical challenge as the motions of the chrysalis as difficult to believe without visual proof. That said, here is the second moult with the first completed moult in background.

An interesting fact is the caterpillar uses silk to attach the skin to a substrate for the first five moults to hold the skin back while it crawls out of the discarded skin. The first meal of the hatched caterpillar (first instar) is the egg, the shed skin is the first meal for instars 2 – 4. The shed skin of instar 5 drops from the chrysalis. This is why you should never remove a Monarch caterpillar from the leaf, as in doing so may hinder a moult in progress.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Monarch Caterpillar to Chrysalis

The caterpillar attaches itself to a silk pad from which it hangs.

Here is a photographic Series of a Monarch caterpillar chrysalis transformation, a step in the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. The caterpillar attaches to a silk pad from which it hangs. Underneath the skin, the caterpillar is transforming to the chrysalis. In these photographs the silk pad and chrysalis attachment from a previous transformation are in the foreground.

About 34 minutes transpired between the previous photograph of the caterpillar in “J” formation, attached and hanging upside down to the chrysalis. In this time the outer skin was shed, revealing the chrysalis.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

On My Arm

Settled In

Misjudged by over an hour, I reached into the cage to allow the Monarch butterfly to crawl onto my hand for the first flight. Instead, it crawled up my arm and clung to my cotton shirt sleeve.

Click photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-x to zoom in closer.

Click me for better experience viewing the following video. To do this from WordPress Reader, you need to first click the title of this post to open a new page. Note the replay icon (an arrow circling counter-clockwise.

I used the IPhone 7 for these views..

Thank You for visiting.  Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Monarch Emergence

Our Third Monarch this year

Clinging to my sleeve, this newly emerged Monarch wings dried. It is a process of excreting the fluids pumped into wings, crumpled from folding within the chrysalis, to expand them. The clear drips of water on my arm are this fluid.

Click photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-x to zoom in closer.

Here is a video from this year, a Monarch emerging from the chrysalis, then expanding crumpled wings. Notice, this butterfly has a problem: once emerged the butterfly swings back and forth continually as it clings to the chrysalis. While interesting to us, the movement is caused from a missing front leg. Monarch butterflies have four legs, this butterfly is missing the right front leg, the imbalance causes the swinging movement. Freshly emerged, a large, distended with fluid abdomen is prominent between small, crumpled wings. With time, the abdomen pumps fluid, expanding the wings. Over several hours the fluid runs from the wings and is expelled from the abdomen, as seen in the above photograph.

Click me for better experience viewing the following video. To do this from WordPress Reader, you need to first click the title of this post to open a new page. Note the replay icon (an arrow circling counter-clockwise.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pam’s Begonia Basket

small, unloved, on clearance

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak, I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this image I used a handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR with the Canon lens EF 50mm f 1.2L USM. This is the fifth post of this series.

Click photograph for a larger view.

Pam’s gorgeous Begonia Grandis hanging baskets had a humble beginning. Not quite born in a log cabin, our local Aldi was the beginning where Pam saw sad little $3.00 potted begonia’s, on clearance, that needed a home. Cherished through the late frosts of May, carefully watered, placed in the perfect light, it was no accident these are so……perfect.

One strange fact, I have not witnessed a single honey bee harvesting these blooms.

I used three Canon lenses in the course of these five posts. This lens is a portrait lens. I used a large format image for this post, enjoy!!

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Iridescence and Impostors

“Here I Am”

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak, I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this fourth image of the begonia series, I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 100 mm f 2.8L IS USM variable lens.

Click photograph for a larger view.

Tiny Mirrors

Begonia flowers have no petals. The colorful structures surrounding the male and female parts are the structure in many flowers, such as roses, that lay beneath the flower petals and are green are called the sepal. These are the cover protecting the flower as a bud and, when open, can provide support. In begonias it is the entire flower and it glows.

The angle of morning light in today’s macro captures the reflections of thousands of tiny mirrors in the flowers, more noticeable in the darker undersides. Also present is a subtle iridescence, a shiny surface imparting, in this begonia, slight color changes. These are signals to the pollinators, “Here I am — this is delicious.” Also, in low light tropical environments iridescence can enhance light gathering of leaves.

Hoverfly

Woodland sunbeams are special places where I first noticed hoverflies, they have a behavior of staying motionless, beating wings a blur, in sunlight making its way to the forest floor. It was only after the fact, in the virtual darkroom of Lightroom, I noticed the tiny creature in today’s photograph.

On a quick look, it appears to be a yellow jacket, a type of wasp. Look closely and you will see the eyes are on the top of the head and touch in places. The wings stand perpendicular to the thorax, wasp wings fold along the thorax and abdomen and there are differences in the veining of the wings. The identify of this creature is a beneficial fly, a hoverfly, genus Episyrphus. The shiny black shield on the upper thorax suggests to me this is a Episyrphus viridaureus.

This fly is beneficial to humans in two ways. One we observe in the photograph, as flower pollination. It is one of the few flies with mandibles capable of crushing pollen grains and, in the course of feeding, some pollen clings to the fly to be transported flower to flower. The second benefit is less obvious. The larval form is a predator of aphids. After feeding, it transforms into a resting state, called diapause and survives the winter this way.

Human beings suppose the benefit of looking like a wasp is protection against predators who fear being stung, increasing survival of the individual.

The lens is designed for macro work and is a fixed focus, it can capture small details without needed to be close to the subject. I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the hoverfly. It was in writing this post I noticed the sepal iridescence.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Begonia Flowers and a Sweat Bee

shiny, bright green tiny bee

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this third image of the begonia series I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 100 mm f 2.8L IS USM variable lens. Click me for the first post, “Begonia Grandis.”

Click photograph for a larger view.

Sweat Bee!!

The bee on the right, in sharp focus, was a puzzle to me. I am familiar with it, they are very common around here, and striking with a bright green shiny thorax. For this post I decided to identify it.

After thirty minutes of poking around I found a list of New York Wild bees on the Cornell CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) site. It is in the form of an excel spreadsheet and very helpful. There are over 400 species listed. Using the “filter” feature I found the six families and, for each, did a web search. I am 98% sure this bee is in the family Halictidae, known as “sweat bees,” being attracted to the salt of perspiration they use for nutrition.

Next I looked as the first name in the species designation within the family Halictidae. Tjhis is the genus. There were not many, in a few minutes singling out Agapostemon, known as the “metallic green sweat bee.” I did not find it necessary to hone in on the exact species as members of the genus Agapostemon have defining characteristics.

There are four species listed on the Cornell CALS spreadsheet, all are ground nesting and solitary. Sweat bees are useful as crop pollinators. In Texas they can replace honeybees for pollination of cotton.

Agapostemon sericeus
Agapostemon splendens
Agapostemon texanus
Agapostemon virescens

The lens is designed for macro work and is a fixed focus, it can capture small details without needed to be close to the subject. I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the bees. The sharper focus is on the sweat bee

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bumblebees and Begonia Flowers

early morning light

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak, I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this second image of the begonia, I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 70-300 f 4-5.6L ISM variable lens.

Click photograph for a larger view.

Bumblebees numbers will tell you if local mouse populations are under control. Mice will invade bumblebee burrows to eat the eggs and young. If the bees are plentiful, it means more are escaping mouse predation and only because mouse numbers are low.

This morning, bees of all kinds filled the begonia flowers. Bumblebees were amusing to watch enthusiastically roll around the many stamen of the male flowers, gathering as much pollen as possible.

The lens focal length is set to 84 mm to capture the entire plant, on reviewing the proofs I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the bee.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved