Monday, August 30, 2010

A Regal Emergence Monarch Metamorphosis Final Act!


Welcome to the crowning moment of the Monarch butterfly metamorphosis!  It is a miraculous birth of unending wonder. Whether having seen it once or hundreds of times, each thrilling happening holds you captivated and inspired by the miracle of life. Butterfly emergence alert! Note the accordion-like ridges at the top of the chrysalis . . . this is a sure sign the butterfly is about to emerge. If you look at the earlier shots in the last post you will clearly see the difference. The top of the chrysalis is very smooth without the open ridges in it's earlier stages.


Last time in Act III a sneak peek at Aria's chrysalis form completely changed within was presented . . .  her butterfly wings singing out through the clear chrysalis casing. In Act I . . . though I did not call her by name . . . you are able to see her teeny, glossy black caterpillar head inside her eggshell and watch as she grows, molts and munches her landscape of milkweed.  We can recall how in Act II . . .  as a caring caterpillar . . .  with a title of 'fifth instar' . . . she cleverly crafts her silk button and secures it about the sedum stem. In Act III Aria's last magical molt reveals a jade green jewel-like chrysalis dangling from her 'crewmaster' carefully attached to hundreds of threads of silk. Now we can see how her handiwork will support her through the final act of her metamorphosis. She weighs less now than when she began her chrysalis stage and presently. . . as a butterfly . . .  is ready to be free . . .  to dry and fly. In amazement we can watch as she shoves open the door of her chrysalis casing . . .  then steadfastly she slides and flops out into her new life . . . cautiously catching herself in the act.










WHEW! Aria is safely holding on for dear life to her chrysalis casing. Her tiny wet wings are useless to her now and her life depends on the chrysalis and silk button holding fast, for if they were to fall apart she too would fall . . .  to certain death. When she tumbles out, her legs become like strings to a parachute . . . her chrysalis the parachute! Quite the acrobat, she can perform many acts at the same time. While catching herself, she also immediately works several of her new parts. Her tongue or proboscis must be wound and unwound till both pieces work as a straw-like form. You can see her moving her palpi . . . the two mostly white small extensions next to her proboscis and first pair of tiny legs.  The palpi along with her antennae will heighten her sense of smell. Her sight is more complex with compound eyes filled with thousands of little lens similar to our camera lens, that perceive light and forms. Traces of milkweed white juice are found dotted along Aria's thorax, abdomen and orange and black wings. 


Aria's abdomen is pumping blood into the veins of her wings. Cass and Polly still hang nearby in their chrysalis form. 


Within minutes, as her wings inflate, Aria moves up along the sedum stem allowing the delicate wet fabric-like wings more room to hang and dry.


Aria and one of the Muses, who emerges before I wake, will hold onto the sedum stem and leaf, much like lovely garments on a clothes line, until their wings are dry and hardened.


Here is another Muse about to exit and enter as a new creature!





Another free fall into life! 




How about a different perspective this time . . . what a plump abdomen . . . filled with the life blood of the butterfly wings and body. What a clever way to fit those magical wings into the small casing!


There is something about that design that captivates my imagination!


Spreading wet wings suddenly fill the space with color.



Another Muse descends upon the scene . . . that makes three.


Perhaps that is a sac on the third black line from the abdomen way. It seems we might have a male Muse! I had to use a wine glass to hold up the Hosta leaf . . . not the leaf of choice . . . for the photographer . . .  but the caters sure love it.


Once Aria is adjusted to her new parts and her wings are dry, she lets me know she is ready to go, by flapping her wings. I quickly and gently encourage her to climb on my finger. Then as I have done many times before, I walk a flawless, fresh butterfly out into the garden. Each time I walk this way I feel so blessed. This day I carefully place Aria onto a bloom of butterfly bush . . . how perfect can that be. Other times hundreds of butterflies have found my finger useful as a flight pad . . . while I . . . the lucky one . . . watch in amazement, as they take their first flight. I whisper "Good Luck" as they flap and ready for take off. Sometimes I find they are in no hurry and will spend a few moments on the tip of my forefinger moving all their new parts about . . . much like our exercises . . .  to strengthen each tiny muscle. Aria is a fine fully formed female emerging in mid August. I am not certain if she will stay in the garden, for a two week life span . . . mate, lay eggs then sadly die . . .  or if she is destined for a six month life span, which includes a long perilous journey to Mexico . . .  for I understand migration has begun. 


Aria and one of the Muses seem content and add magic and beauty to the garden. They will spend more quiet time adjusting to their new selves before feeding and flying freely. 


Later in the week Cass and Polly emerge . . . only Cass is a girl not a twin boy! She does remind me somewhat of her comical caterpillar self with her antennae held in a similar way to her once animated tentacles. What an enchanting colorful creature to have known during her changing life. Now ready for flight . . .  she has a large world to join  . . .   




and we are left with only green and an empty clear chrysalis casing. A lovely keepsake.    Knowing caterpillars and butterflies this way certainly makes any ordinary day seem remarkable . . . memories that add magical fibers to the fabric of our lives . . . building a better understanding of the natural world we all hold dear and with great reverence.


This is the final act of the Monarch Butterfly's Metamorphosis, although not the end of our journey together, if you care to join me on a trip to Mexico . . .  I took some years ago. I traveled with a group led by one of the first American biologist to discover the overwintering sites of the Monarch Butterflies. Of course Mexicans have known about it throughout generations . . . for Monarch butterflies have been returning to Mexico on the Day of the Dead for hundreds of years. This was a fabulous trip and an important one for my book proposal . . . for how could I write about this marvel of an insect without the final chapter. Please do not anticipate spectacular photos of large clusters of butterflies. My photos of the trip are merely average but will give you a good idea of the area and native peoples, who live near the sites our beloved Monarchs fly to each fall. I hope you will join me and who knows maybe we can all plan a visit together! 

42 comments:

Edith Hope said...

Dearest Carol,This is deserving of stretch limousines, fanfares of trumpets, bouquets of flowers, the reddest of carpets and all imaginable Oscars. I seldom use the word 'awesome', but this most certainly is. Thank you so much for all the time, effort, patience and hard work of which this is the most spectacular of results.

And yes, I shall be on that trip to Mexico!

Wenche said...

Really magic!This is wonderful captured.
Hugs

Darla said...

It never ceases to amaze me! Beautiful.

Kimberly said...

Carol, you are blessed, indeed, to be part of such a miracle! Amazing moments and amazing photographs!

I'm looking forward to Mexico!!

Bangchik said...

Beautiful.., everything about the Monarch is beautiful... even the old transparent-fit-for-one casing is well designed, with exquisite lines of yellow, grey and black dots. ~bangchik

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

The final act is dramatic and beautiful! Carol, thank you for the wonderful job!

Jan (Thanks For Today) said...

I had been looking forward to this post, Carol! Love, love, love your photos! Magnificent! Will surely travel to Mexico with you. I am still wondering about the monarch that visited me last week. Wondering if any eggs were laid on the milkweed...wishing that to be the case! Haven't yet seen any, though.

Sophia Callmer said...

Beautiful, thank you for sharing this miracle of butterflies.
kram Sophia

Randy Emmitt said...

Carol,
These photos are really something! Meg's Black Swallowtails 10 hatched over the weekend and she had to release them without the children in the class. So far the kids have released one, hopefully today they will get more. We had 2 emerge in the garden today, I saw one male and it exited as I approached.

africanaussie said...

Oh Oh Oh.... thank you for sharing, I was breathless with anticipation. What lovely photos!

Noelle said...

What a wonderful journey that you have led us all on. I am thrilled that you will also be able to share a monarch's journey to Mexico :-)

joey said...

Kudos, Carol! I'm at loss for words knowing the artistic effort/knowledge creating this post. Even before reading this final note, I gasped in awe watching Monarchs enjoying my garden today ... so in awe, I didn't even grab my camera ... sometimes it's OK to simply marvel (as I did enjoying my visit with you).

Pam's English Garden said...

Dear Carol, How incredibly beautiful! Well done! Nothing I say is adequate. Pam x

Meredith said...

Wow. An everyday miracle. Truly stunning, Carol, and I'm looking forward to the trip to Mexico (altho could anything beat those amazing wet wings first unfolding? No!)

Rebecca @ In The Garden said...

A perfect denoument to the dramatic tale of metamorphosis. I look forward to hearing more about your travels. How I would love to walk with a newly emerged Monarch Butterfly on my finger accross the garden. Enchanting!

Kirigalpoththa said...

Wow Fascinating nature photos! It is a beautiful butterfly!

Anja said...

Hejsan Carol!

Quite stunning images of the wonder of Life!
I really admire your skill as a photographer!
So incredibly beautiful./Kram, Anja

leavesnbloom said...

words fail me.........

count me in for Mexico too!

Anonymous said...

Your photos are a life affirming meditation for me. Thank you for filling my eyes and soul with such amazing moments. love you, SB

debsgarden said...

Breathtaking! Thank you for this wonderful story told through photography. I am reminded of the many spiritual lessons we can learn through nature, if we open our eyes and minds to see. You are very talented!

Patsi 'Garden Endeavors' said...

Amazing photos.
Amazing post !
This is a keeper.

Patsi 'Garden Endeavors' said...

Amazing photos.
Amazing post !
This is a keeper.

Les said...

What a great opportunity, thank you for sharing it.

Kathryn/plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com said...

How extraordinary! Bless you for documenting that beautiful life process. May all who see it become inspired to help protect the butterflies of the Earth. xoxo

Brian said...

Carol,
Wonderfully written and photographed…such a learning experience for all!
Thank you for sharing.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

This was just amazing! I don't think I've ever seen pictures like these before capturing each detail. What perfect timing to be able to watch the whole thing happen. Thank you so much for sharing!

Amy said...

Hi, Carol ~ What an amazing post! Your photography is beautiful!!!!!!!!

Benjamin Vogt said...

I'm glad all turned out well! Yesterday I had to euthanize a monarch in the freezer after he came out, fell to the ground, an was o weak (with my help) to hold on to anything, this his wings never inflated....

Barbara said...

Just breathtaking. I really love that last photo of the empty casing. Even that is beautiful.

tina said...

Having never seen this process, I find your explanations and pictures quite the miracle.

GardenJoy4Me said...

Carol girl that was absolutely amazing : ) I have never seen a presentation like yours before and it was stunning .. I want to go back and look at it over and over again !
It is sad these beautiful creatures have such a tiny life span but their amazing life journey is profound .. and like Tina said a miracle!
What can I say that everyone else hasn't already said ? .. perhaps the unique side of me fixates on the timing in Mexico, for "Dia de los Muertos" how utterly fitting ? wink wink
Joy : )

Kate said...

Hi, Carol;
These photos simply took my breath away. Oh, what I give to experience such a delightful moment in real life. Kudos to you!

Gail said...

Carol, Thank you for sharing this magical series with us~I've seen monarchs in the garden, but have never seen a chrysalis. Now I don't feel so deprived! Have I said it was magical, I meant to add, fantastic and marvelous and .....gail

catmint said...

thank you for this extraordinarily amazing and wonderful and wondrous post. How you managed it is a mystery to me. I would love to go Mexico but from Australia it does seem quite a long journey. Still with your photos, I can do it vicariously ... cheers, CM

Tyra i Vaxholm said...

Edith said it all - WOW you are amazing with your camera.

Commonweeder said...

Carol - these posts have been just magnificent. The trip is beyond me, but I'll be first in line to buy a stack of the book.

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

Carol, the absolute coolest photos and story. Took my breath away. The patience it took to photograph the Monarch emerging was incredible. Remarkable work is all I can say. You got a 5 fav from me on this one.

ruma said...

Hello, Carol.

All the birth is really solemn.

Thank you for showing your beautiful photography.
And I admire enthusiasm for your beauty. . .



From Japan.
Greetings.
ruma

Jennifer E. Curtis said...

Really divine photos. I will show them to my daughter. It was fulfilling to see them for me on a Sunday. A blessing.

Monica said...

Really magic! This is wonderful captured. Thank you for sharing this with us..the photos simply took my breath away. Lots of hugs to you.. Moa

Fadas de Luz said...

Parabéns pelo blog. De muito bom gosto e prazeroso de se ver. Lindo!
Beijos do Brasil

Autumn Belle said...

What a wonderful journey it has been, watching the metamophorsis of your beautiful butterflies from begining to end. Thank you so much for a story well told and a meaningful life journey shared. I am so touched. I can visualise how much joy you must have felt as you walk your newborns out into the garden and set them free. Such a short life span but so much can be achieved.

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