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Found some eggs on the sky-blue asters (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense, formerly Aster oolentangiensis) today. IF they’re butterfly eggs, they’re most likely to be from one of the crescents, and probably the Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta). The eggs are pale pink, which rules out the very similar Pearl Crescent (P. tharos), which lays greenish eggs. On the other hand, it could be something else entirely. I brought the cluster in, so when (if) they hatch I’ll know more.

Man, I was so wrong about the Monarch chrysalis in my post last night. Instead of eclosing in two to four days, it eclosed this morning, no more than a day later.

Monarch17Chrysalis13-32This is the chrysalis, roughly thirteen hours after the previous Monarch picture. The pattern of the wings is now clearly visible through the cuticle.


…and here it is ten hours after that. This is Day 32 since the egg was laid. Obviously it has long since eclosed, after which the crumpled wings get pumped with fluid from the body to straighten and smooth out. Monarchs usually eclose early in the morning and spend most of the day hanging to spread their wings and firm up their exoskeleton. If it’s a warm sunny day, they can be ready to fly off by midafternoon.

Although this one’s wings are fully spread, they’re still soft at this point.

Monarch19Imago01-32…otherwise it probably wouldn’t sit so sedately on my finger. It spent some time just flexing its wings to strengthen them and its wing muscles. In this picture you can see that it’s a female because it lacks the male’s androconiums, which show as a black spot on each hind wing. Also, the venation of the female’s hind wing is much wider than the male’s.


Four hours later, sitting on the wild senna (Senna hebecarpa) and sunning itself. Then goodbye.


After a butterfly finishes stretching out its wings and finalising its body shape, excess fluid gets voided. This fluid is called meconium, and Monarch meconium is reddish brown. I seem to remember reading or hearing once that someone tried to explain alleged rains of blood in Texas (or Mexico or somewhere) as mass eclosure of Monarchs, which to me is a curious mixture of knowledge and ignorance. The person had to know about meconium in general and Monarch meconium in particular, but didn’t know that meconium gets voided before the butterfly even flies off.

MonarchOldChrysalisJust for the sake of interest, the old chrysalis shell, still bearing the gold dots as when it was occupied. The pattern of splitting is characteristic.




And here’s the tragedy. Sometimes a butterfly ecloses with deformities, and wing defects are, if not the most common, then among them. This Monarch was the first one I found this year, as a caterpillar when I found the egg of the subject of the previous pictures. It eclosed about four days ago, and for some reason its wings never stretched out properly. Possibly they were deformed to begin with, but it’s hard to say. It also seemed that the mouthparts were deformed; butterflies have two palps: one on either side of the proboscis to protect it. I’m not sure what happened, but that didn’t look to be the case with this one.

It’s sad, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Release it or keep it somehow and either way it dies. It kept trying to flap its stubs and it was heartbreaking to watch. Eventually I placed it on a Black-Eyed Susan outside; it won’t be able to join the Monarch migration south and if something doesn’t kill it first, it will die of starvation or exposure and fuel the cycle of life. Such is nature.

Oh, in case you were wondering why they only have four legs instead of six, that’s a common characteristic in the Nymphalidae, or brushfoot butterflies. In fact, the front pair of legs is drastically reduced, so they look as though they have only two pairs.

And that’s it for the Monarch diary.