So, on Tuesday, October 19, I found a chrysalis that looked like this:
Clear green, the shape of wing veins was evident in the shape of the chrysalis, but there were no dark veins apparent. Green green green.
I re-hung the chrysalis in a large critter/bug habitat (the last inhabitants of which were the Frogs of Justice) and tried not to check on it too frequently, since I was sure that a) it was way too early for the butterfly to emerge, and b) it would probably not emerge, anyway.
On Wednesday or Thursday of this week, I thought the chrysalis seemed a little lighter, less green. I inspected it in better light and thought that maybe the veins on the wings were getting darker. Or maybe I was imagining things. Or maybe it had a fungus. I'd give equal odds on each.
On Friday around lunchtime, I looked again and I could totally see orange wing patches! I checked a monarch chrysalis evolution page I had found earlier and estimated eclosure at Saturday or Sunday morning.
This is how it looked just after noon:
And this is how it looked by 8pm that evening:
Yeah, baby, ain't no fungus on us!
I was halfway afraid that it would emerge before I got up on Saturday morning, which would be a bummer. Luck was with me, and it was still hanging there in the morning. Phew. It was dark now, and I was fairly certain that this would be the day.
I started obsessively checking it every 15 minutes. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I got worried that the butterfly wouldn't have room to hang and fill/dry its wings, so I removed the chrysalis from the habitat and tied it to a small branch that I placed in a jug on top of the piano.
(I will admit that I also wanted better light. That habitat is a pain.)
I got to work on a project, meaning to check on it every half hour or so. Two hours went by. I went downstairs and found this:
Auuuuuugghhhhh!! I missed it! I waited over a week for the butterfly to emerge, and I missed the whole thing!!
Well, not the whole thing, but I was really looking forward to seeing the big swollen bug emerge and pump her crumpled wings full of lymph. By the time I found her (how long did it take? There wasn't even a ridge on the chrysalis the last time I looked!) her wings were filled but still seemed soft. She was not opening them yet. She also seemed very, very shaky on her feet. While watching her, I noticed that she only had four legs, and I became convinced that this butterfly was deformed and might not live. So then of course I googled some more ("monarch four legs") and discovered that monarchs always look like that, because their forelegs are tiny and held close to the body. What I thought were deformed legs were actually normal legs. There's a lesson in there somewhere.
I also noticed that she was working on getting her proboscis together, and remembered reading that butterflies have to put together the two sides of their proboscis, and that sometimes you have to take a pin and straighten it out because they need help...and wait wait wait...pregnant women don't need us to fix them and neither do butterflies. Deep breath. Low intervention eclosure here, ok?
While I was checking her out, she frassed on me (I deserved it for poking at her). Frass is caterpillar poop, and butterflies eject a meconium that is liquified frass from the caterpillar's digestive tract. I apparently got the first squirt. She continued to exude a drop at a time. Opening her wings seemed to help force it out.
(Of course I took a photo, I'm a caterpillar poop enthusiast.)
I moved her close to a sunny window, which was conveniently located in a tiny room that could be closed off...just in case she suddenly was strong enough to fly. She did seem to get stronger over the next hour or so. Her wings were more straight and firm, she was beginning to open and close them, and she seemed more steady on her feet.
The tears in the empty chrysalis reminded me of orchid petals.
The kids were fascinated, too.
I spent a long time examining little details, like how the texture of her wings looks almost like fabric. The scales also have some whorls that reminded me of fingerprints. I wonder if the whorl patterns are unique?
Butterfly feet are also amazing, a pair of tiny, hook-like grasping claws.
Uncertain when she would need to eat (I've read that they might not need to eat during the first 24 hours), I offered some fruit, similar to the plates found in butterfly houses at botanical gardens. I had raspberries and tangerines on hand. She inspected but did not eat.
By late afternoon, she was still not attempting to fly and it was pretty chilly outside, so I decided to confine her in the bug habitat overnight and release her on Sunday, which was forecast to be a sunny day with a high of 70 degrees. Perfect for butterflies ready to get a meal and migrate.