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Restless Caterpillars

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Each morning Anne scours the milkweed plants for her monarch caterpillars. We know that some of them are large enough to go through the next stage of their life cycle when they transform from larvae to pupa to adult.

Some caterpillars have gone astray and Anne enlists my services to help her find them. Knowing that the caterpillars wander to find a safe place undergo transformation, we expand our search and sure enough, 50 feet from the milkweed patch on the side of our house and three feet from the ground, we find two where two caterpillars formed a pupa called a chrysalis. We discover another chrysalis hanging from the bottom of our bird bath.

I come across a caterpillar dangling from the bottom of our windowsill in the letter “J” shape. Its colors darken and it twitches occasionally as if it is in pain. After a half an hour, there is a rhythmic movement on its upper body that becomes more intense as the minutes pass by. Suddenly, it drops its head down. “Anne,” I call, “Something is about to happen.” Anne joins me and we gaze at this amazing show.

The caterpillar continues to contort and a slit in its skin opens up just behind its head exposing the spring green skin underneath. The creature writhes causing the outer skin to roll inside out off the caterpillars head and up to where it is attached to the ledge. This exposes more of the shiny light green chrysalis. The skin, shriveled, falls to the ground. The chrysalis gyrates and contracts for about a minute and then tranquility comes over it and it hangs motionless.

We hope that the chrysalis will survive and look forward to the birth of the adult monarch butterfly.

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