the unfurling of wings

Yesterday was something of a ‘big day’ around here. I’ve been very busy this week, so haven’t had time to pay much attention to the Monarch caterpillars and chrysalises, but during one pass through the dining room, I glanced at the tabletop and found 3 butterflies in the process of eclosing. Two of them were pretty much finished, so I moved them out to the screened porch to warm in the sunlight. The third must have just eclosed as its wings were still unfurling (see above photo and click on it for a larger view). I’ll try to shoot some video sequence of an eclosing, but that requires some careful watching, so I’m not sure how successful I’ll be.

During the eclosing, the action of the palpi was quite interesting. The palpi are the furry, pointy things that look a bit like little horns just ahead of the eyes in the photo below. After the buttefly was fully emerged and suspended below the chrysalis, the palpi began wiggling around like mad — sort of like Groucho Marx’s eyebrows. I had read several references some time ago (this one among them), that during eclosing, butterflies must use their palpi to join the two sections of the proboscis together into a single piece in order to feed. So, that would account for all of the wiggling and manipulation. I tried to shoot a bit of video footage of that, but the butterfly was not well-positioned and I didn’t want to move it around just for a photo in case it fell from its perch. I’ve set up another chrysalis that looks likely to eclose sometime soon and will try to get better images then.

That’s about it for the Monarch news. There are 2 or 3 butterflies eclosing each day now, and the last of the caterpillars are coming along well. Hopefully, it won’t be too long until the last of them pupate.

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7 Responses to “the unfurling of wings”

  1. Pamela Says:

    Wonderful photos! If I never see this in life, I’ll still feel I’ve been there.

  2. robin andrea Says:

    How incredibly beautiful, Bev. The butterfly’s wings still slightly furled is quite a sight. It is really quite amazing to see these photographs, I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be there actually watching it happen.

  3. Wayne Says:

    Ahh, how pretty, a wet emergent ready to go!

    I have this feeling that our drought, however interrupted by recent rains, has broken a breeding period. We are seeing a few Tiger Swallowtails, and there have been numerous Skippers of various sorts, but our butterfly populations this year have been woeful.

    I’ll look for the tagged Monarchs from Ontario in the next few weeks! :-)

  4. MB Says:

    Beautiful shots!

  5. burning silo Says:

    Thanks, everyone. Yes, indeed, it really is quite a sight to watch these Monarchs unfurling their wings. And Wayne, yes, keep an eye out for my little Monarchs as they pass by! (-:

  6. Laura Says:

    Can you remind me how long it takes before they leave the chrysalis? I’m wondering when the one in my garden will be ready – I think I read 7-10 days depending on weather conditions.

    Is the *skin* of the chrysalis left behind?

  7. burning silo Says:

    Laura – We’ve found that it seems to take about 8 days most of the time. When the butterfly ecloses, it leaves behind a clear “skin” of the chrysalis that almost seems like it is made of thin plastic..