Sunday, August 1, 2010


My observations of the metamorphosis of the Monarch butterfly

Each spring my garden is covered in Monarch butterfly caterpillars. They come because of the milkweed plants that are so prevalent there. After gorging themselves on the leaves, which is their sole source of food, these fat little "worms" crawl off to find a place to "hang". Once a location is selected, the caterpillars cannot be moved. In fact, if you try to detach them, they will most likely return to that same location.

The caterpillar will suspend itself into the shape of the letter "j" to prepare for creating its chrysalis. It takes less than 24 hours for the caterpillar to form the chrysalis. Eventually, the head of the caterpillar falls off, and a bright, green chrysalis appears.

Monarch Butterfly Chrysallis

The chrysalis remains green until the morning the butterfly is to emerge. At that point, it becomes completely clear, and you can observe the butterfly folded inside. This happens within about a week's span.

Monarch Chrysallis


Don't blink! Within less than one minute the butterfly emerges. Close observation shows a split occurring to the chrysalis from which the butterfly will push itself out. I am always so amazed it could fit in there!

Monarch Butterfly Emerging Monarch Butterfly Emerging

You can watch two different Monarch butterflies emerge from their chrysalis in this video.

After emerging, the butterfly hangs upside down for several hours to dry its wings. It will turn back and forth to stimulate air flow. The drying time is very important because if the wings do not dry properly, they will be wrinkled and the butterfly will not be able to fly. Sadly, I've seen this happen.

Eventually, the new butterfly begins to pump its wings open-closed, open-closed. This helps to finish the drying process and also strengthens their wings. Then as the temperature of the day starts to rise, the butterfly flies away!

New Monarch Butterflies

Newly Emerged Monarch Butterfly

You can watch a newly emerged Monarch as it dries its wings in the video below.

*All of these images were taken with my Nikon d5000, including the video.
You can view more photos of this subject at my Webshots.

Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

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