Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Just Wanna Fly

Well, you read about it in books, and you see it on TV, but I guess until you see it with your own two eyes, you never quite believe it will happen. But it really does. Caterpillars really do turn into butterflies, as Heimlich proved this morning.

Last night, we noticed the chrysalis was becoming somewhat darker, and that the butterfly features seemed to be more defined.

Still, it wasn't until we woke up this morning to find this that we realized that
our time with Heimlich was definitely growing short:

Heimlich has always liked a little privacy for his biggest tasks, and this final one was no exception. In the time it took us to pour a bowl of cereal, Heimlich the butterfly had emerged.

The fluid from his body was already being pumped out to fill and expand his wings,
a process that continued over several minutes.

After the wings were fully expanded, he spent several hours hanging from the remains of his chrysalis, slowly expanding and contracting them as they strengthened.

Finally, he dropped to the ground and stretched his wings, ready for flight. It was then we discovered... Heimlich is actually female. How can you tell? The hind wings have no dark spots indicating male scent glands, and the black lines are thicker.

So, having renamed Heimlich Henrietta,
we removed the cover of the jar and urged him her to take flight.

She flew up into the nearby palm tree (that dark spot in the picture above is her) and stayed for another hour or so. Finally, she took off for good. She'll most likely live 2 - 4 weeks, long enough to mate and lay eggs (maybe on the milkweed in My Florida Backyard!) so the cycle can begin again.

In case you missed the story of Heimlich, here's a slide show of his life, beginning with when we collected him as a caterpillar about 2 weeks ago.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

We hope you've enjoyed following Heimlich/Henrietta's story here on My Florida Backyard!

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