Brand New Butterflies!


I've been insanely busy at work, trying to keep a particularly lovely project on-schedule.  And during this time, my tank full of caterpillars has mostly all morphed into silent mysterious chrysalises.  I find these fascinatingly enigmatic.  I watch, wait and ... wonder.

Watching is one of those quiet activities that I think we could all do a lot more of.  How much do we notice the world as it swirls around us?

Only a very keen observer would notice the changes inside of this seemingly lifeless object.   Only a weirdo like me would spend so much time peering at chrysalises, looking for changes.

If you compare the two images of the same chrysalis, you'll notice that in the lower photograph the shell seems more translucent.  You can discern patterns of a butterfly's wing through the walls of the chrysalis.

Twenty minutes after I took that photograph (and after I gave Robb a particularly boring lecture about how I thought this butterfly was about to hatch) I walked past the holding tank and saw this newly-emerged butterfly.

It takes several hours for a butterfly to inflate its crumpled new wings. Robb and I went for a bike ride, and when we came back the butterfly was ready to fly off into the world.  This particular creature did not linger.  We opened the top of her enclosure, and off she flew.

Later this afternoon, it occurred to me that I had better do something about the one caterpillar who had escaped the tank and built her cocoon on one of my indoor orchid plants.

I wandered back to the pantry, and found a beautiful butterfly perched on my plants, slowly moving her strong straight wings. Thankfully this was a calm butterfly, that I was able to carry outside without any drama.  Neither butterfly nor transporter were adversely affected by the trip from pantry to back yard.

The butterfly did not fly away immediately.  She clung to the orchid that had supported her chrysalis for the past few weeks, allowing me an opportunity to take a few photographs.  Did I seem like a looming monster, to this newly emerged butterfly, or did she even notice me at all?

The day was getting late, and I was somewhat concerned that this butterfly would be warm enough to fly so I carefully placed the potted plant inside the tank (something I should have done weeks ago).  At one point the butterfly faltered, and fell off the plant.  She crawled, dragging her wings on the floor of the tank.  I held my breath. She struggled to find purchase on the slick glass walls, and so I offered her a hand. She climbed onto my finger, clasping gently with the ends of her delicate legs. I slowly lifted her out of the tank.  She held on for a few moments, and then flew off to our neighbors' magnolia tree, where her wings blended perfectly with the foliage.

 I'll never tire of releasing winged creatures into the wild.

(For those keeping score, we've now released four butterflies in the past two weeks.)


Michelle said…
Oh Gawd, Amazing. Beautiful.
Theresa Cheek said…
I have enjoyed vicariously watching the butterflies hatch. Your photos of the wings are wonderful.

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