Yesterday I was witness to a spectacular miracle in nature.
One I'd never had the opportunity to see before ~ the actual transformation of caterpillar to pupa!
If you've been following my blog since I discovered the cats on the milkweed, you know in the last post I had one cat hanging in a "J." From all I'd been reading about the metamorphosis process, once in a "J," they stay in that position for approx 24 hours before completing the transformation to pupa. I desperately wanted to see that part of the transformation but I figured it would happen overnight.
I checked on him last thing before bed then even got up at 3:30 AM to see if anything was happening! To my great relief, in the morning, the caterpillar was still hanging in "J" formation! I knew then I had a chance!!!
I found every job possible to do in my backyard so I could be nearby to keep an eye on him. I peeked at him every five minutes or so. I'm telling you, it was just short of exhausting but in the end, oh so worth it!!!
It took until 4:40 PM until something began to happen that I could see (although I know there were many things occurring internally that whole time.)
The first indicator was the straight part of the "J" sort of "scrunching" itself together.
Then the caterpillar dropped out of the "J" position & began to straighten as seen in the photos above & below.
At that point his "skin" split at the bottom (near his head) and the new, bright, jade-green pupae can be seen emerging:
Things progressed rapidly once the transformation started. It was all over in less than 5 minutes.
The old "skin" split all the way up the length of his body. When it reached the silk button, it popped off and all that remained was the new green pupa.
I think those are the wings already developing??
As you can see, at first it looks nothing like the Monarch pupa we are familiar with seeing.
It takes a great bit of twisting & turning to get maneuvered into that shape.
See how the bulk of the newly emerged pupae is at the bottom at first?
Now notice how the undulating begins to change the shape.
The pupa is soft, wet & very vulnerable in this state. It takes another 24 hours for it to completely harden.
Below: Finally finished.
Truly, truly a fascinating experience, made better shared with two of my neighbors.
The only way possible to improve it is if the caterpillar hadn't waited to make the transformation until he was in full sun ~ then I could have gotten better photos!!!
All kidding aside, it was absolutely remarkable to witness. An experience I will remember forever and a reinforcement that Nature has the ability to create wonder and marvel beyond anything man could ever hope to do. What a blessed day.
Stay tuned for the final stage of metamorphosis ~ that of pupa to butterfly!!!! You know I will be all over that!
p.s. There are now (3) Pupa's in my garden & I'm still betting the fourth is out there, I just haven't found it yet...