what we missed

Yesterday, while we were off photographing frogs, water bugs and turtles on Kemptville Creek, we missed some excitement here on the homefront. As predicted when posting my morning update on the Monarch caterpillar, it did make its transormation into a chrysalis while we were gone. We arrived home to find the tiny remains of its final molt, and the chrysalis firmly attached to the screen where the caterpillar had been suspended by its back end that morning. Oh well! What can I say? I wouldn’t have missed yesterday’s canoe trip for anything — even a pupating caterpillar!

I may bring another few caterpillars indoors if I happen to come upon any during my insect walks over the next few days. With all of the Monarchs flying over the fields at the moment, there are bound to be more caterpillars. From my insect photography, I know that the odds of survival of any small caterpillar are dreadful, so it seems worthwhile bringing a few indoors to see them safely through to transformation into butterflies.

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7 Responses to “what we missed”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    Sometimes you have to make those hard choices. Maybe the caterpillar you bring in today will show you how it transforms into a chrysalis. It must be quite a thing to see. So, all those green leaves the caterpillar eats makes a fine green home!

  2. Laura Says:

    I’m surprised with how quickly this happened! Shame that you weren’t there to see it make its chrysalis, but I guess there are many wonders still to see with this one.

  3. burning silo Says:

    Robin – I’d love to see the actual moment when the caterpillar molts and becomes a chrysalis. I’m sure that if I bring in a couple of more caterpillars, I would probably catch the right moment to see it (and shoot some photos). It really is quite neat how these caterpillars seem so integrated into their habitat — down to the green chrysalis.

    Laura – It’s funny, but I didn’t actually know that the caterpillars grew quite that fast, although I’ve certainly noticed that they do, but to get from being tiny, to being a chrysalis, did seem pretty quick. It will be interesting to watch the chrysalis change as the butterfly develops. Hopefully, I will get some photos as it emerges as a butterfly.

  4. Wayne Says:


    I’ve read that the process of making a chrysalis occurs fairly rapidly – unlike a cocoon it’s not so much a matter of spinning as a matter of shedding exoskeleton (?).

    So here we are, having been entertained by FC’s turtles hatching followed up so conveniently by Bev’s monarch performance.

    When are we going to be there, Daddy?

  5. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – Yes, it’s supposed to happen very quickly… sounds like in a matter of seconds…with the exoskeleton splitting and the chrysalis being exposed. That link that I posted the other day says that the chrysalis gives a wiggle that attaches that black connecting thing to the silk pad — for a moment it must be “free” in the air. Sounds amazing. It strikes me as one of those things that should be photographed as a .mov clip rather than still photos. However, sorry as I was to miss it, I’m glad we went canoeing and got to see the cool Water bug with eggs on its back, and the Mink frogs — I think they outweighed seeing the caterpillar turn into a chrysalis. Maybe next time, the timing will work out better to capture the chyrsalis thing happening!

  6. Wayne Says:

    That water bug is amazing. You probably know about the ecological R-selected and K-selected artificiality that are usually used to introduce students to ecology. It’s always so frustrating for me when I think about things like this that seem to violate that simplistic view. Then when students ask about humans and carrying capacity and are we R-selected or K-selected, I have no confident answer.

  7. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – I love the water bug, although a couple of friends have told me that they think the photo is kind of gross. (-:
    Yes, I know of the r/K selection theory — had to look it up again though as it’s one of those things I’d learned and forgotten (I have to do a lot of that these days). I always think it interesting how creatures such as insects seem to be stereotyped as mass producers who don’t put much effort into rearing of their young. If anything, I’m constantly confronted with examples of insects that put their whole life’s work into raising young. I can thinking of plenty of “higher organisms” that don’t devote their entirel life to the raising of their young. Also — and this is something that my brother and I were just discussing yesterday — insects have evolved into such incredibly diverse forms and often have such bizarre life cycles — using dragonflies for example — look at how they hatch, spend anything from moths to *years* as aquatic naiads, molt something like 13 to 17 times, crawl out of the water and eclose as dragonflies — so really requiring a huge shift in survival skills — from water to air — and then often, the males put a huge amount of effort into trying to ensure that the females they mate with do not mate with another male (either contact guarding, or hovering nearby during egg-laying). And don’t get me started about spiders as they absolutely blow me away. Anyhow, lots of contradictions. What I’ve learned of insects over the past few years challenges a lot of my own notions of the role of insects within the whole ecological picture. [edit: PS – This seems like a good topic for one of your “teaching posts”. I’d love to read your some of your views related to the above]