Our monarch butterfly sanctuary is a dense stand of milkweed, over the years the established plants grow rapidly late May through June, blooming in July. The flowers have an incredible scent, attracting numerous pollinating insects.
A colony of pesky sparrows nest nearby. In spite of a reputation for tasting bad, the sparrow actively feed on the hatched caterpillars. My strategy is to examine the plants early morning, placing rescued caterpillars in this old birdcage.
Click photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-x to zoom in closer.
The caterpillars and milkweed leaf is placed on the cage floor. I pile up the dried leaves, replacing with fresh each morning.
Sadly to report, the last, ravenous caterpillar stage is also carnivorous, cannibalistic. These two, below, were the only ones left except for one in the pile of dried leaves.
Here is a closer view of the two fifth stage instars searching for a safe location to pupate.
A few hours later one has successfully created a silk pad, attached itself and assumed the “J” shape. To the left a second caterpillar and silk pad.
The next morning, the first has formed a chrysalis. The second, hung spent.
This unsuccessful individual never completed the chrysalis, dried up and fell. My sources write the pupa transforms to a chrysalis through shedding of skin, the following photograph tells a different story. The chrysalis appears to extrude from the skin; arising over, or from, the skin rather and beneath it. I have never recovered a shed skin underneath a successful chrysalis.
Nine days later, Tuesday, July 28, the chrysalis hangs. I check several times a day.
These photographs are from a 100mm “macro” lens, handheld. The birdcage works well for protecting the monarchs. Is a poor location for photography.
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Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
On Tuesday, December 17, 2019 a caterpillar dropped from vegetation to crawl across the parking lot of Sonic Drive-In, 2140 N Courtenay Pkwy, Merritt Island, FL 32953, crawl up an order station, affix its tail to the kelly green semi-gloss enamel, to form a chrysalis.
The afternoon of New Years Eve, 14 days later, we spied the Retro theme of this fast food business, finding it appealing, stopped for a hi-fat lunch of hamburgers, onion rings (“highly recommended, very delicious”) and (ha, ha) diet sodas, choosing this same order station where the emerged Brush-foot butterfly, of the family Nymphalidae, clung, drying in anticipation of flight.
Captured here with the Apple IPhone 8. I cannot identify the exact butterfly species this is. Source: wikipedia article on Nymphalidae.
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Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills