It takes 10 to 14 days for a monarch butterfly to emerge from the cocoon, and after all that waiting, the actual process happens rather quickly. In less than a minute, this butterfly was out of its cocoon, and in about another 7 minutes, the wings were fully extended.
The new butterflies hang for a while to let their wings dry, and then they're off.
This one struggled across the grass, awkwardly, un-butterfly like,
before he finally discovered his wings.
I've always loved these butterflies,
but my admiration for them has grown as I've watched their tenacity,
and when they finally fly, my heart takes wing along with them.
We're wishing them a happy winter in Mexico,
or wherever they made reservations this year,
and we'll leave the lights on for them next spring.
There's been some excitement lately in the flower bed in front of the house.
A butterfly milkweed plant was host to some bugs with striped pajamas,
specifically the kind that turn into monarch butterflies.
With their voracious appetites, they ate the plant right down to the stems.
When they were quite full,
they wandered off in search of a perfect place to spin a cocoon.
The little things looked quite helpless, flailing away at the edge of a stem,
before turning back to find a better place.
Ahhh... This might do.
On the day most of them moved off to find a sheltering place for their cocoon, the skies opened and rain fell in torrents. In the past, we've had less than desirable results with cocoons and moisture, so Don stretched a rope from a couple of places on the front of the house to the light pole, and draped a camouflage tarp over it, to serve as a tent for the small creatures. It looked like something right out of Duck Dynasty, but it worked. If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that one should never underestimate a good man with rope and a camouflage tarp. The hummingbirds were happy with the arrangement, too, and quickly took to their new perches.
One by one, the caterpillars found their places.
Most of them attached to a stem or the underside of a leaf,
but there was one on the light pole, one on the side of the birdbath,
and one on the overhang above the garage door.
They hung there limp and lifeless...
...until, awakened by some inner compulsion, they wiggled into a soft green cocoon.
You can see 15 seconds of the process here:
Over the next few days, their metamorphosis continued.