The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

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JustinR
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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby JustinR » 29 May 2016, 23:35

Oh! A sullivantii. New treasure! We don't have that here, and I've never came across it before. It's overwhelmingly A. syriaca on our land here, though there's an abundance of A. tuberosa in the area, we haven't really concentrated on introducing it yet. If one goes a little deeper into the trees, there's also a fair scattering of A. quadrifolia, which is lovely.

Anyhow, we're almost certain we've seen two Monarchs on the road here in the past week. They were fairly elusive when we backed up to investigate, but a bit too brightly colored to be the local woodland fellows. I can't begin to say how heartening it is to see good people like you all building habitat in the midst of humanity, then going the extra step beyond in caring for the larva from the start. Keep up the good work, and keep us informed.
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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 30 May 2016, 01:47

Yeah, it looks like the natural range for A. sullivantii does not extend far enough east to reach you, Justin. And I live too far west to have ever made the acquaintance of a pretty little woodland plant like A. quadrifolia. Diversity is a beautiful thing, though!

Congrats on your monarch sightings. I just checked the Journey North tracking site, and so far, only one report this year has come in from West Virginia. Hopefully we'll all be seeing a lot more of them soon!

Meanwhile, here's the latest news about our monarch larvae. As of this evening, all of the original dozen, except for #5, have entered the fourth instar. The biggest one has reached a length of 19 mm (0.75"), and growing. Here's caterpillar #7.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 30 May 2016, 01:51

I also found three new eggs yesterday at a nearby prairie restoration. I really feared that I had possibly killed one of them. I neglected to take any fabric scraps with me, so several drops of milky sap leaked from the leaves into the bottom of my collection cup. I was not sufficiently attentive, and one leaf flopped over into the milk, egg-side down. The egg stuck there and completely detached from the leaf when I later tried to remove it. I felt sure that the egg must be damaged, or outright broken, or flooded and suffocated or something.

But the larva popped right out today. It ate about half of its empty shell, and it then promptly made its way onto a new leaf. So here's caterpillar #14.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 30 May 2016, 01:53

On the off chance that anyone's starting to feel bored with caterpillar pictures, take heart and please hang tight. Photos of the freakishly weird pupal stage should coming in roughly five days. The adult butterfly stage is due in about two or 2.5 weeks. Here's a little teaser from a previous season.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby winterfire » 30 May 2016, 07:21

Ooohh reminds me of Tiffany glass! Glad your little one survived.
I didn't know anything about these butterflies but I have just read they occasionally turn up accidentally on our south coast.

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 01 Jun 2016, 21:34

I did not know that, winterfire! Thank you for sharing that information. I looked it up, and you're right. Apparently it's possible for monarch butterflies to be blown completely off-course during their autumn travels, with survivors landing all the way across the Atlantic. According to this site, they are among the rarest of all migrants to the British Isles, with less than 500 sightings recorded, starting in 1876.

My present monarchs will never voyage that far, since they are early-season breeding individuals who typically live only a few short weeks as adults. They are doing well, though. Caterpillars #1–12 have all reached the fourth or fifth instars, and caterpillars #13–15 are still in their first or second instars.

Here's big, beautiful #10. I put the leaf into the cup this morning around 8:45, before I left for work. The missing portion around my pinky finger shows how much was eaten by noon. The caterpillar measured 34 mm (1.3") in length at the time of the photo. It may grow another half inch or so before it pupates!
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Alwin » 02 Jun 2016, 08:30

It's so amazing how they produce all these fancy colours just by eating green leaves! This is the wonder of life!
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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 05 Jun 2016, 00:43

I agree, Alwin—it is indeed a wonder! Well, the larval colors are maybe not as vibrant as those in your ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence series (which I love). :wink:

But... allow me to also introduce the pupae.

I'm largely reliant on whatever ambient light is transmitting through the window, so the sequence below turned out more contrasty than ideal. But the images still give a good sense, I think, of the bizarre (and extremely vulnerable) chartreuse creature that pops out briefly, just prior to the formation of the chrysalis.

This final larval molt lasts for just a minute or two. Then the inverted, suspended pupa gyrates around wildly for another minute or so, as it anchors its tail end firmly into a small silk pad that it previously wove. As soon as it feels secure, the pupa withdraws inward and becomes very still. Over the next hour or two, a new exoskeleton develops and hardens around the pupa, and the butterfly-to-be enters its chrysalis stage.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 05 Jun 2016, 00:45

In this more enlarged image, I've labelled some of the nascent anatomical parts of the butterfly that are already visible, even before the chrysalis forms.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Alwin » 07 Jun 2016, 19:27

Well, the larval colors are maybe not as vibrant as those in your ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence series (which I love).
Image
I'm largely reliant on whatever ambient light is transmitting through the window, so the sequence below turned out more contrasty than ideal.
The pictures are perfectly fine! :)
If the contrasts are to harsh you can try using a white sheet of paper as a reflector. This gives a soft ambient light but in this case probably also increases the reflections on the cup.
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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 13 Jun 2016, 22:11

That homemade reflector is an excellent idea, Alwin. Thanks, and I'll try that whenever I next get a chance!

Today I have a few new photos of a fully-formed chyrsalis to share.

Usually the pupae attach themselves to the mesh at the top of the cups. This is perfect, since it allows enough wiggle room for their wings to hang down straight and to harden in the correct shape when the butterflies eclose (i.e., when they come out of the chrysalis).

Once in a while, however, a pupa will instead attach to the bottom of the leaf, as shown below. In the wild, this would be great. In the cup, it poses a serious problem. It takes 10–14 days for the butterfly to eclose, and meanwhile, the cut leaf in the cup begins to droop. As the leaf dries out, the chrysalis settles toward the bottom. When this happens, the chrysalis needs to be rehung, or the butterfly will fail to form properly.

Pupae #1–14 all attached themselves in good, solid, high spots. Pupa #15 didn't quite catch on and employed a different strategy. In today's series of photos, I'll illustrate my process for relocating her.
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160613Pupa15Leaf.jpg
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Last edited by Tracy G on 13 Jun 2016, 22:25, edited 2 times in total.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 13 Jun 2016, 22:13

First, I carefully remove the wilting leaf and the attached chrysalis from the cup. If the chrysalis is inspected with a magnifying glass, a loupe, or a macro lens, it is possible at this point to determine the sex of the butterfly. The short vertical line segment that is immediately below and between the black dots in the photo reveals that pupa #15 is female. If a small dimple had appeared there instead of the line, the butterfly would have been male.
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160613Pupa15Female.jpg
160613Pupa15Female.jpg (156.89 KiB) Viewed 1905 times
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 13 Jun 2016, 22:15

The next step is to cut away the excess leaf, leaving a small piece around the anchoring point.
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160613Pupa15Trim.jpg
160613Pupa15Trim.jpg (281.72 KiB) Viewed 1905 times
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 13 Jun 2016, 22:16

I then take a piece of floss and tie a half knot around the black attachment structure (the cremaster) at the top of the chrysalis.
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160613Pupa15Loop.jpg
160613Pupa15Loop.jpg (288.47 KiB) Viewed 1905 times
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 13 Jun 2016, 22:17

I pull this very gently snug, then tie another half knot on the other side just to be sure it's secure.
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160613Pupa15Tie.jpg
160613Pupa15Tie.jpg (268.42 KiB) Viewed 1905 times
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 13 Jun 2016, 22:19

I use an embroidery thread needle to guide the ends of the floss through the mesh of a store-bought butterfly carrier.
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160613Pupa15Sew.jpg
160613Pupa15Sew.jpg (317.25 KiB) Viewed 1905 times
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 13 Jun 2016, 22:20

I tie the two ends in a square knot and attach a piece of masking tape with the pupa's number.
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160613Pupa15Rehung.jpg
160613Pupa15Rehung.jpg (169.06 KiB) Viewed 1905 times
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 13 Jun 2016, 22:21

Here's a picture from this morning that shows the type of carriers that I'm using. I was inviting one of the first butterflies of the 2016 season to step out into the wider world of nature. Eight of the original dozen eggs that I collected as eggs on May 12 successfully flew away as butterflies today. The other four will likely eclose tomorrow. More photos soon!
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160613TracyMonarchCarrier.jpg
160613TracyMonarchCarrier.jpg (521.51 KiB) Viewed 1904 times
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby ShadowCat » 14 Jun 2016, 04:18

I'm so much loving this story... :hug: :butterflies: :butterflies: :butterflies: :butterflies: :butterflies: :butterflies: :butterflies: :butterflies: :butterflies:
Three sounds one should treasure:
the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby winterfire » 14 Jun 2016, 07:37

Oh yes! How exciting for you..well done. :) Do you find you get about equal number of each sex or more of one or the other?


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