Gathan Beaga

the butterfly

Four weeks ago to the day, the girls and I watched as a monarch caterpillar transformed itself into a beautiful chrysalis.

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Most of the sources on the web talk of the chrysalis stage (or pupation) taking nine to fifteen days (with some of the New Zealand sites stating nine to twenty-one days). Last weekend, after three weeks, I feared the worst. Especially after reading the tragic story of B₂’s friend Hazel’s caterpillar.

Fortunately, during last week the chrysalis started changing again, darkening up and eventually this morning becoming obviously ready to open. Fantastic timing, being Sunday and therefore I would be around all day to capture the happy moment, like some over-enthusiastic father in the birthing unit.

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Unfortunately though nothing happened. Well, not for a long time. Every 15 minutes I would take a look out the window. Nope, no change. The sky grew overcast and dark; the air cooler. Nothing would happen today. I’m guessing that they are fairly temperature dependent: with an unhurried 28 day pupation what’s another day inside their chrysalis?

It was while I was making afternoon tea for the girls and R. that something made me check out the window again.

Bugger.

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I was too late. It had emerged not too long previously though, by the look of it. You could see its fat body, still full of liquid, busy pumping its wings up…

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Just a few minutes later the wings are almost fully extended…

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And then in another 10 minutes it looks ready to go:

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But of course it didn’t. The last one we had stayed where it was for the better part of 24 hours before flying off. And shortly after I took this photo, it started to rain.

It’ll still be there tomorrow, no doubt. Then it’ll flutter off to find its one and only late season doomed love, any offspring condemned to die of the cold as winter encroaches on Wellington gardens.

What a cheery thought.

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