Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Give Me a "J"!

We came around the corner in the garden the other day and almost ran smack into this monarch caterpillar, hanging in the classic "J" position and preparing to pupate into chrysalis.

This is a pretty common sight in My Florida Backyard. Most species of butterfly caterpillars display this behavior, spinning a silk pad and attaching their hind end to it by a hook called a "cremaster". The rest of their body hangs free, allowing the caterpillar to shed its skin one last time and form a chrysalis. (Learn more about each species below by clicking the name.)

Other butterfly species hang in a modified "J", using a second strand of silk to secure themselves across the middle. This adds an extra level of security in case the cremaster accidentally becomes detached.

Observing the full life cycle of butterflies is just one of the joys of building and maintaining a wildlife habitat. Watching these creatures from egg to caterpillar to pupa to butterfly never fails to impress us with the amazing complexity of nature at its finest!


  1. I love having butterflies in all their forms in my garden too! In fact, I regularly look closely at my fence and plants to see if I can find the cats or their chrysalises. They are remarkably well camouflaged!

  2. Great photos. I love butterflies in all stages too, but they really do camouflage themselves well.

    Happy Summer Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  3. Aren't they magnificent! I don't seem to have any Monarchs this year. My milkweed is full of leaves - uneaten.

  4. Wow! Aren't you blessed to have witness that! Thanks for sharing!