Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gimme Shelter

As expected, Heimlich pupated overnight, and we awoke this morning to find him inside this beautiful green chrysalis:

Although we didn't get to see it happen, the process of pupating is very interesting. Many people incorrectly believe that caterpillars "spin a cocoon" and climb inside to await metamorphosis. In fact, the chrysalis (not cocoon) forms from the inside out. While Heimlich hung upside-down last night, his chrysalis was actually forming underneath his cool striped skin. When he was ready, Heimlich's skin split open and he basically wriggled and danced his way out of it, leaving it discarded on the floor of his jar. His chrysalis would have been fairly soft at first, hardening into the shape you see above. Interestingly, the chrysalis is actually clear - as Heimlich begins to transform into a butterfly, we'll be able to see wing patterns and so on through the chrysalis.

NOTE: Even though Heimlich has passed some pretty big milestones, we here in My Florida Backyard are aware that the biggest challenge is still ahead. Florida monarchs are especially susceptible to disease, possibly because they don't migrate like other monarch populations. Monarchs frequently suffer from Oe, a parasitic infection. Heimlich could have it even now - there's no way to know. If he does, he could emerge from his chrysalis not fully formed, or even not emerge at all. However, we're not going to borrow trouble - right now we'll just hope that Heimlich is healthy and develops as he should.

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