Monday, June 8, 2015

Painted Ladies

Awhile back, we ordered 5 painted lady caterpillars. The caterpillars were tiny when they arrived, but very quickly grew quite large.
 The caterpillars ate their special food in the bottom of the cups and then, when they grew big enough, attached themselves to the paper towel at the top of the cup and hung down in a J-shape.
 Their skin splits up the back and is shed to reveal the chrysalis. The caterpillar remains inside the chrysalis for 7-10 days, until it is ready to emerge as a butterfly.
 I always thought that a butterfly chrysalis was one of the most beautiful things in nature. So delicate with such beautiful golden dots.

 The chrysalids are hung in the flight cage, ready for butterflies to emerge! I noticed that the chrysalids turned dark and the wings became visible when the butterfly was ready to emerge.
 I was surprised to learn that it takes only a few minutes for the butterfly to emerge. They must quickly unfold their crumpled wings and pump blood through them, or they will harden and be deformed.
 In this picture, a butterfly on the left has just emerged and the wings are starting to unfold. On the right is a butterfly that became stuck while trying to emerge. He did eventually free himself, but his wings stayed small and shrivelled and wrapped around his body, in the same position they grew inside the chrysalis.
 After the butterflies emerge, they excrete meconium, the red splashes you can see on the paper towel in the photo below. The meconium is left over colouring that was not needed for the wings. The yellow bowl below is the food for the butterflies. They can taste with their feet!
 After a couple of days, we released the butterflies outside. Butterflies only live for 2-3 weeks (and about 10 days as caterpillars and 10 days inside the chrysalis).

 Here's my poor little guy who will never fly.
 He also had a double proboscis! Caterpillars have simple eyes, with just one lens, but butterflies have compound eyes with hundreds of lenses.

 I released this guy in the strawberry garden and I hope he enjoys a few good days outside in the wild!
It's a short life, but they bring so much beauty while they are alive.

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