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The birth of a butterfly

Last time I left off with a rather bland chrysalis.

You can see the morphing of the caterpillar here.

Turns out I did get lucky again.

Thanks to AZ Sphinx Moth I knew what to be looking out for, a color change in the chrysalis

And nine days later, change it did. Not only darkening but orange patterns and green crevasses appeared. The chrysalis is thinning and now you can see the butterfly wing through it.

The night before was an an unusually cool August night in Texas.  I had slept with the windows open and awoke to a much needed rain shower.  I made a cup of coffee and stepped out on the back porch. I checked on the chrysalis and noticed the changes.  I figured with the dark skies and cool weather it wouldn't be the right conditions.  I had read that light and temperature would be factors in signaling an opportune time for emerging. Then when I saw twitching I thought it might be a good idea to get ready-just in case. But even though I was camera ready, the bad lighting and aging eyes made for poor quality shots. I'll count it as a learning experience.

There are tiny openings in the chrysalis for drawing in air allowing the butterfly to pump up it's body which causes the chrysalis to crack. It started just behind the head.

Then the head appeared.

Using it's legs to push the flap open.

One long leg is free. Butterflies have three pairs of legs though some have a shortened front pair or vestigial forelegs.  Butterflies can "taste" with their feet. A spur on the leg can be used to puncture a leaf which releases chemicals that the butterfly detects with sensors on it's legs and feet.
I was going to crop out the caterpillar but decided it was funny enough to keep.

More legs and then the antenna emerge. Butterfly antenna are clubbed at the ends and have many functions including balance and orientation during flight as well as smelling.

Now it's able to grasp onto the stick to help pull out those folded up wings. The claws on the feet help it hold tight.

It begins to curl and uncurl the proboscis.  The proboscis starts out in two parts that the butterfly must join together. Later, if it gets clogged with sticky nectar, it can be taken apart and cleaned.

Almost there.

Free at last!

Next is the job of unfolding and drying the wings. The butterfly pumps fluid from it's abdomen into the veins of the wings.  Note the green veins.

The wings are made of a thin transparent membrane supported by the veins.
Polly Syllabic posted some great photos of a hummingbird clearwing moth that beautifully illustrates this transparencyhere

The wings are covered in tiny scales which gives them their color. The word Lepidoptera comes from Ancient Greek meaning scaled wings.

The unfolding continues.

A couple of close ups.

All unfolded and ready to fly.

Oh, by the way--it's a boy!
Male Eastern Black Swallowtail
Papilio polyxenes

Hope you enjoyed!

Learn About Butterflies
The Biology of Butterflies
How Butterflies Work

If you like Butterflies keep an eye out for DKer billybush at the Backyard Science/Daily Bucket group.

After a disappointing Spring, I'm starting to see more butterflies here in North Texas--How bout you?

Originally posted to FOYI on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:13 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing, Community Spotlight, and Backyard Science.

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