Royal surprise

On Saturday, while digging bulb holes in the catio, I unearthed something curious.

Because of it’s greenish colour, and the fact I literally dug it up, the first thing that came to my mind was a cicada. I had no idea what they looked like underground, but I knew they lived underground for a good part of their lives, and I’ve seen their “shells” left behind so it seemed a logical conclusion to me.

I posted the pics in a Nature Facebook group I belong to, and was immediately corrected. It was not a cicada at all – but a Monarch butterfly in it’s chrysalis!!!!

How it ended up buried is still a mystery. It was directly under the mulberry tree in the catio… that makes sense as it’s the tree nearest the milkweed. (So very good chance it was one of my caterpillars!!!). The wind, rain, me or a cat could have knocked it off. But how it got buried…? It wasn’t terribly far down, but still.

Regardless of how it got there, the internets advised me to try and hang it back up, and keep an eye on it. They said it still looked viable, and there was a chance it could still hatch.

So I did. And yesterday afternoon… things started to happen!

The chrysalis had become clear and you could see the monarch wings. It started to crack around the top, ever so slowly and I watched and watched and watched. Eventually I had to take a bathroom break and when I came back…

It was gone! Only the top of the chrysalis remained. I panicked, because while waiting I had done a little researching and that’s NOT what’s supposed to happen. They are supposed to come out of the bottom then hang from the chrysalis while they unfurl their wings.

I got down on my hands and knees and scoured the ground, praying I hadn’t stepped on it. It took about 10 minutes, but I finally found it.

It was squirming pretty good, so I carefully picked it up and brought it to the safety of the sun porch.

I learned that it’s best not to help them out of the chrysalis. Their struggles help them build their muscles needed for flight. So I sat, and waited. As soon as it got those wings free, I gently picked up what was left of the chrysalis, and got it into a hanging position (like it would have been if it was still in the tree).

After a few moments, it reached up and clung onto my fingers. And there it hung for about 20 minutes or so while it unfurled its wings.

At this point I was able to tell that it was a she…. there’s no black spot in the middle of the black vein on the hindwing.

When I was sure she was strong enough, I put her in the tree so she could finish firming up her wings.

She spent the next few hours hanging and stretching

Now she’ll be winging her way to Mexico. I’m so happy I got to be a small part of her incredible journey!

13 thoughts on “Royal surprise

  1. Oh, my goodness! What an experience! I’ve helped birth other animals but never a butterfly! I’m so glad you paid attention to finding out what you had unearthed so you could help it!!!! So very cool!


  2. Araignee

    When I was a teacher we used to have these butterfly kits so the kids could watch the process but I’ve never seen anything as dramatic as this.


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