Tag Archives: metamorphosis

Quote of the Week #75

puz-7400Remember that beautiful chrysalis I featured as a puzzler recently? And that I said I hoped I would get to see it emerge? Well guess what?

When I woke up on Saturday and looked at this chrysalis, it was notably different, appearing darker with obvious orange wings visible through the thin layer. Having never watched this kind of butterfly emerge before ( I have only seen a monarch and a red-spotted purple emerge as a butterfly) I wasn’t sure what the timing might be so I set up my camera and tripod a foot away and settled in to watch. It was 8:30.

The chrysalis at 8:30am

The chrysalis at 8:30am

All morning I sat close by, watching and photographing the changes–which were so subtle that I would miss them if I didn’t look frequently and carefully. There was a general loosening at the top, more air spaces within the chrysalis and a flattening of the pointy projections on the outside of the chrysalis. I could see the butterfly was slowly moving downward.

The chrysalis at 11:30

The chrysalis at 11:30

There were several false alarms–“I think it’s about to go!” I shouted exuberantly more than once. My husband sat with me in the beginning, enjoying a cup of coffee as we watched. We stared at the tiny chrysalis before us, looking and looking to see if anything was happening. I was hopeful. He was patient.  An hour went by. Then two. After several hours of “I think it’s going!” he eventually moved off to do other things, leaving me to sit alone. (No need for both of us to just sit there and watch it doing nothing!)

At just before noon I saw the bottom “hinge” opening and shouted for him to come join me. Together we watched as the tiny butterfly struggled from its chrysalis. Wow, this is an incredible thing to witness!

You can see it here!

And so, this week’s quote,


What miracles have you witnessed lately?

If you want to watch a Monarch caterpillar making its chrysalis, you can watch that here.

Posted in Animals, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , , 6 Comments

Weekly Puzzler Answer #130

Okay, so yes I am guilty of making that last puzzler WAY TOO HARD. I see that now. It was close to impossible! Sorry!

puz-7400Perhaps you were able to determine it was a CHRYSALIS, but had no idea from what butterfly. I didn’t know either and had to look it up when I found it. The problem is that I have amazing reference books since this is what I do for a living and many of you might lack these books.

Do you know the difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon? Many people use the two terms interchangeably, but this is not correct. The two are very different.

Both butterflies and moths produce silk but they use it differently. One way a butterfly uses its silk is to attach its PUPA to a hard structure. A PUPA is the resting stage of insects, such as butterflies and moths, that undergo complete metamorphosis. (The other kind of metamorphosis is gradual or incomplete. In this kind there are 3 stages rather than 4: egg, nymph/larva,adult.Bugs and beetles are two insects that go through incomplete metamorphosis)

A CHRYSALIS is strictly used for a BUTTERFLY pupa.

A chrysalis is the hard skin of a butterfly’s body beneath its last molting and it can be many different colors, textures,shapes and sizes. If you want, you can watch a chrysalis being made here–this is AMAZING!

A COCOON on the other hand is a silken case that a moth caterpillar (or other insect) spins around it (for protection) before it enters the pupal stage.

So the chrysalis from last week’s puzzler? Well to be honest, I am not 100% certain! At first I was sure it was from a butterfly called a Baltimore Checkerspot but in all my time outside, and especially lately in the same field everyday, I have never seen this butterfly. What I have seen are lots of Variegated Fritillaries, including their

A variegated fritillary caterpillar.

A variegated fritillary caterpillar.

caterpillars–which are just as beautiful as the butterfly and chrysalis. These chrysalises are very similar, both surely at the top of the list of most beautiful chrysalises of all butterflies. So having seen so many Variegated Fritillaries in the field, I am pretty sure that’s what it is.

I brought this metallic chrysalis home and am keeping an eye on it, hoping I will notice some change and then get to witness its emergence. That would be AMAZING!! However, not knowing when it was made puts me at a disadvantage. Most butterflies stay in their chrysalis 10-14 days. So of course this one could be right at the beginning of that, in the middle, or nearing the end. I can only look at it regularly and try to be home often to check on it.

A variegated fritillary

A variegated fritillary

If I witness its emergence, you can be sure I will share my photos with you! Cross your fingers for me! Last year I watched some other butterflies emerging from their chrysalises–You can check them out too– a red-spotted purple butterfly emerging from its chrysalis or a monarch emerging from its lovely green chrysalis. If you’ve never gotten to see this–it’s worth a look, as it’s a real miracle of nature…absolutely amazing!

Did you know that all the pictures featured in my blog posts were taken by ME? I spend a great deal of time out in the field and forest and other wild places photographing all kinds of plants and animals so I can share it with you here on my blog or elsewhere in programs that I teach. ( I am teaching a class about bats in November if you are interested!)

Want to check out the next puzzler? It’s about a red-crested bird. I guarantee it is easier than this last one! Don’t forget to add your guess in the comment box below for your chance to be qualified in the next drawing. It only takes a minute!

Have a great weekend! See you again soon!

Posted in Animals, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Weekly Puzzler | Also tagged , , , , , , , , Comments Off on Weekly Puzzler Answer #130

Weekly Puzzler Answer #75

Check out this butterfly emerging from its chrysalis! An amazing moment for you to share with me. Did you guess this butterfly for last week’s puzzler?

I thought it was going to be a Viceroy, but as you can see, it was NOT orange and black when it emerged. But even so, WOW! If possible it was even more beautiful.

This is what a Viceroy looks like. Beautiful, right? It is a mimic of a Monarch–meaning in looking like a Monarch predators will avoid eating it since the bright orange and black signals they are distasteful. The Monarch IS distasteful, having eating the bitter Milkweed leaves before becoming a butterfly.


Here’s the next puzzler.

Posted in Animals, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Little Wonders, Nature NOW, Weekly Puzzler | Also tagged , , , Comments Off on Weekly Puzzler Answer #75

Nature For Your Soul

Mud Lake in Nederland, Colorado

Mud Lake in Nederland, Colorado

Years ago I worked at a small nature center in Nederland, Colorado and directed a book project with a group of 5 and 6 year olds called The Most Important Thing. Each student created one page in the book, filling in the blank after “the most important thing about me is….” Of course I had to make a page too. On my page it reads, “the most important thing about me is I love not man less but nature more.” I borrowed the lines from the end of a beautiful poem by Lord Byron.

There is pleasure in the pathless woods, There is rapture on the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, By the deep sea, the music in its roar, I love not man less but nature more.


My intimacy with nature defines me. Nature nourishes my spirit and makes my soul dance with joy. I am happiest when I am outside, surrounded by the beauty and wonder of nature.

Do you feel this way too? What would your page say? What is the most important thing about YOU?

lake-2416Lately I have been raising Monarch caterpillars   (because I feared their field was going to be mowed) and just recently, the first three emerged from their chrysalises, entering the world for the first time as winged adults. This morning I sat watching and waiting for close to 5 hours, wanting to be present when they emerged. In studying them so closely I noticed subtle changes that took place throughout the process. It was fascinating! And I was captivated. Not wanting to go anywhere else or do anything else for fear of missing it.

Have you ever had the pleasure of witnessing this? My gosh, it is absolutely miraculous! Breathtaking. A moment that rivals some of the most extraordinary natural events I have ever seen.

4 weeks ago, the creature was an egg the size of a freckle. The creature guess--2struggled out of its egg and became a caterpillar, eating, eating, eating, eating for two weeks until it was ready to make its chrysalis. And then. Then there was stillness. And inside the thin green walls of that chrysalis, the caterpillar was rearranging its parts. Close to two weeks later, it came out as a winged adult. 2 Weeks! My gosh, how is this possible?

“How does it do that?” someone asked at my recent Little Wonders program when we were talking about the metamorphosis of butterflies.

lake-0190I am sure science has a better answer than mine–which was simply that “I don’t know. But wow, is it miraculous!” Sometimes in nature it feels okay to me to not know EXACTLY how. I don’t need to know every single detail. My awe and wonder at the event brings me to tears, I am so amazed that such a thing is possible. And then, so incredibly grateful that I get to see it, know about it, learn from it, be inspired by it. Then watch it again. And again.

It makes me think of this great quote I came across many years ago by Albert Einstein. I will share it with you now–a bonus quote of the week for this last week in August:

“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”

Would people appreciate butterflies more if they witnessed this emergence? How can these miraculous events not make national news? These things happen every day! How can people see this and not feel compelled to share it with every single person they know? And then do EVERYTHING IN THEIR POWER to protect these amazing creatures, to make sure that they continue to thrive! (Read HERE about ways you can help Monarchs and coming soon, 10 things you didn’t know about butterflies…stay tuned.)

Watch with me as the first butterfly emerges… is it nature for your soul too?


Now, if that wasn’t enough and you are still wanting more, here’s a bonus... the BEST drug commercial you’ll ever see!

Do you take this drug? Are you– like me– addicted? Woo hoo, isn’t it wonderful!!! Amazing everyone doesn’t know about this! How can this be?

(Read the fine print as it goes along… what is your favorite part? Mine is the sentence that says “nature is not golf.” )

Hope to hear from you! Today I will be watching the last of the 4 original Monarchs emerging from its chrysalis! Can’t wait. Here’s wishing you a bit of magic in your day too….it’s everywhere, you just need to look!

Posted in Animals, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Just for Fun, Little Wonders, Nature NOW, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Sure to Make You Smile!

Have you ever watched a caterpillar make its chrysalis? Here’s your chance!

It is AMAZING, a true miracle of nature.

Milkweed in a field near where I live... it could be mowed any day!

Milkweed in a field near where I live… it could be mowed any day!

I recently took 4 Monarch butterfly caterpillars out of a field I found them in, afraid that any day now the owner of the field will come along and mow. This seems to happen all the time where I live and each time, when I drive by to discover the field flattened, I am devastated, a little piece of my heart breaking for all of the “little wonders” that were living there.

The mowed field in the middle of summer will mean certain death to all of the eggs, all of the developing caterpillars and any Monarchs or other butterflies that have made their chrysalis. They have no chance against this and some might say “so what?” but knowing the Monarch population is down 90% makes it hard to swallow.

Rather than take that chance, I decided to raise them myself, giving them a “free ticket” to becoming adults. No worries about the field getting mowed, no worries about a predator eating them or a parasite coming to lay eggs in their body. In my netted “Milkweed cafe” they remained safe. I give them everything they need and will set them free in the same field when they become adults.

A caterpillar hangs in a J-shape before making its chrysalis

A caterpillar hangs in a J-shape before making its chrysalis

Besides helping the Monarchs, I also get to witness this incredible transformation. When the caterpillars have grown big enough for the next stage of their lives, they enter a “wandering stage” where they will leave the Milkweed patch, in search of a suitable spot to make their chrysalis. In nature they may go 300 feet away from their food plants–an adaptation to give them a better chance from predators who may notice their frass (scientific word for poop of insects, especially caterpillars)  or the fact that the leaves have been eaten by something. In my netted enclosure they can’t go too far, choosing their spots on sticks I have added or even the netting “roof.” They don’t seem particularly fussy. Once they find a spot, they create a silk “button” from which they will hang, remaining  upside-down in a J-shape for about a day, and then, will shed their skin for the last time, forming their chrysalis, where they will remain for around ten days.

Amazingly, all 4 of the caterpillars formed their chrysalis within hours of each other. The rigid J-shape became more like an L, with the caterpillar hanging straight down, their antennae becoming totally limp, just before they begin the process. I was fortunate enough to be home and able to film it, so you can watch below.

If you want to know what you can to do to help the Monarchs, click HERE. If you want to learn why they are in trouble, click HERE. If you want to read about my adventure to Mexico to see their amazing migration, click HERE.

I hope to have another video in ten days when the butterflies emerge from their chrysalises. Wow, that will be awesome!

Enjoy the video! Isn’t nature amazing? (By the way, I clipped this video a bit and sped it up in a few places, but the entire process, once it starts going, takes about 5 minutes. The video here is only about 3 minutes.)


Posted in Animals, Did you know..., For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Just for Fun, Little Wonders, Nature NOW | Also tagged , , , , , 5 Comments

Weekly Puzzler Answer #64

lady-8289 The creature pictured in last week’s puzzler is the larva of a LADYBUG! Also called Ladybird Beetles, these insects are common and probably everyone has heard of and can recognize a ladybug! I bet you didn’t know it looked like that before it became an adult!

lbug-3693Their name is deceiving because they are not bugs at all. As I mentioned in a previous post about lightning bugs, All bugs are insects but all insects are not bugs. A bug is simply a kind of insect in the same way a dragonfly or wasp or ant are other kinds of insects. We tend to just call all small creatures with 6 or 8 or more legs, bugs but this is technically incorrect. Ladybugs are actually a kind of beetle and in the United States there are over 300 different kinds of ladybugs! Some don’t even have spots and others are not red.

lbug-3707Just like the adults of each species look different, so do the babies, or larvae. Ladybird beetles go through complete metamorphosis meaning they have 4 stages: egg-larva-pupa-adult. They will spend 7-21 days in the first three stages and then 3-9 months as adults. Do you know what their bright red colors “say” to potential predators?

lbug-0123Do you know how many eggs a female might lay in her lifetime or why gardeners love to see them in their gardens? What do they eat and why do they gather in your house in the fall? Click HERE to read about them in the Creature Feature for the week.

Until then, Happy Weekend! If you want, test your knowledge on the next puzzler.

Posted in Animals, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Weekly Puzzler | Also tagged , , , , , , 1 Comment

10 Things You May Not Know about Cicadas

cicada2-0743Cicadas are a type of insect that on any summer day in most places in North America,  can be heard calling from the treetops. If you’re like many people, you may have heard of them, but know little more than that they make a lot of noise! Here are some interesting things about them:cicada3-0755

1 Cicadas hold two records in the insect world–they make the loudest sound and are the longest lived insects in North America. It’s the males who are responsible, calling with all they’ve got in hopes of attracting a mate. The calls of some cicadas can reach 120 decibels and can be heard up to one mile away!

2. They make their sounds by vibrating a hollow drum-like organ on their abdomens. And they are LOUD, as high as 106.7 decibels!

3. Cicadas are found on every continent with over 3000 species. However, North America is the only place that the Periodical or 17-Year Cicada resides. In NA there are 7 species of periodical cicadas.

4. Like most insects, cicadas begin their lives as eggs. Females insect the eggs into small saplings at the tops of trees. When the eggs hatch into larvae 6-10 weeks later, they fall to the forest floor and burrow under the ground 6-10 inches where they will remain for a number of years depending on species–from one to 13 or 17 years.

5. The baby insects, called nymphs, will feed on the sap from tree roots until it’s time to emerge as adults. This means staying underground for one or two years or 13 or 17 years!cicada3-0761

6. Periodical cicadas reach astonishing populations, sometimes with 1.5 million per acre!

cicada3-07607. Cicadas have 5 eyes, 2 compound eyes and three ocelli. Ocelli are jewel like eyes between compound eyes that detect light and darkness.

8. Despite widespread belief otherwise, periodical cicadas are actually beneficial to the ecology of a region. As larvae they aerate the soil and as adults their egg-laying acts as a natural pruning for trees that results in greater numbers of fruits the following year. In addition, their mass emergence turns over large amounts of soil and their decaying bodies return valuable nitrogen and nutrients to the soil.

9. Females lay 1 to several dozen rice sized eggs in each branch, with a total of 400-600 in 40 to 50 sites. Problems may arise if the trees are not large enough to overcome this natural pruning.

10. The nymphs emerge on a spring evening when the soil temperature reaches 63 degrees.  This usually happens in late April or early May in the southern states and late May to early June in the northern states.

Click HERE to read about the night I witnessed a 17-year cicada emergence when I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.

cicada3-0746cicada3-0772 cicada3-0775

Posted in Animals, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Weekly Creature Feature | Also tagged , , , , , , 2 Comments