It’s a Girl! Yes, I have an announcement. It isn’t actually a birth, but a coming out party for a butterfly! After 3 weeks and 4 days, the Monarch Butterfly emerged from its chrysalis. I had an accurate count of the days in "confinement" since I watched the caterpillar change into its green resting stage. As it spread its hardened wings, I saw that it was a girl.

How did I know it was a girl? Any of you who have seen my Insect slide show have heard me ask the question of a butterfly slide..boy or girl? In the case of these Monarchs, they have a clue on the hind wing. There is a black spot (really a gland) that can be seen on one of the dark veins in the wing. The male is pictured above. My butterfly lacked these spots.

Here is another amazing thing about these insects. How many legs should this animal have? Have you ever counted the Monarch Butterfly’s legs? You will count 4! How come? I am going to leave that for you to research. Where are the other two?

I measured the wings folded up inside the chrysalis casing. They were 3/4 inch in length. When the butterfly emerged (see on the picture at left), the wings look "deformed". In time, the butterfly will pump the fluids from its enlarged abdomen into the wings. They will at first be soft and pliable. However, in time, the wings will harden and become capable of flying. See the picture below. The wings "grew" from 3/4 in. to 2 inches in length all in about an hour's time. It is a definite thrill to see these winged creatures try their wings for the first time, and to see them lift up into the air. You can't help but clap and cheer at their courage to try and succeed!

Aside from watching emerging butterflies, my week has included some interesting observations. In the woods, I found an unusual Goldenrod that was new to me. I identified it as a "Zigzag" Goldenrod. Have you ever seen this one? It is quite a beauty. I have also started puzzling over flower remnants. This is a winter hobby, but my walks have turned up some curiosities. For example, I didn’t see a Wood Lily this year, but found its enormous seed capsule just this week. Sometimes these plant remnants are as interesting as the bloom that produced them. More on this next week.....

Ó 10/3/02 Ronnie