Monday, July 20, 2009

Mourning Cloak Saga, Part 2

Our story continues as the Mourning Cloak caterpillars (here after to be referred to as MCs) have molted into their chrysalis form. (No, chrysalize is not a word I have discovered, although I think it should be.) The chrysalis is the pupa of the butterfly. As with the Monarchs, the MCs crawled to the top of their enclosure, spun a small ball of silk and attached themselves to it. They then hung in a "J" shape, head down, for just over 24 hours. Eventually the "J" relaxed until it was almost straight and the caterpillar began a shrugging motion. Finally, the skin split and the chrysalis emerged.
For a very short while after emerging, the pupa is still soft and it wriggles around, looking very otherworldly, until it gets settled in a comfortable position and is still. About an hour later, the chrysalis is hard.
It is difficult to see in the pictures, but each spike is tipped with red. Out in their natural environment, these pupa would be camoflaged very well, appearing to be a dried up leaf.
We started with 5 caterpillars, but one was much smaller and at a different stage than the others, so we let it go. It is much easier to keep track of them when they are all the same age. Now begins the waiting. I'm pretty sure it will be at least another 2 weeks before we see any butterflies. For now, their tent is clean and quiet and out of the cat's reach. My biggest question at this point is "Why did every single one of these guys choose to attach themselves to the zipper?"
This is what their full tent looks like. The girls and I have decided that we are going to go out and look on the bush where we found these caterpillars to see if there are any chrysalides there. We want to compare notes to see if there is any difference in the cycle when they are indoors. Empirical Science at it's best!

2 comments:

  1. Wow! What a ride! I've not experienced this in real time before, and with so much detail...I love it!

    Can't wait to see them emerge.

    :-)

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