Transformation

We delight in the beauty of a butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

~Maya Angelou

Remember how excited I was to finally photograph a chrysalis of a Falcate Orangetip butterfly in that post a few days ago? Well, I kept watch on the remaining caterpillars, hoping to catch one in the act of transformation, and got lucky again. One morning when I checked on the larvae, I found one in its prepupa stage. That is the stage between a free-living caterpillar and its pupa (chrysalis). A butterfly larva usually finds a sheltered spot and attaches itself to a twig or leaf (or whatever it usually forms its chrysalis on) with silk. In many groups, the prepupa hangs down below something (like a monarch in its J-shaped prepupa). For this species (and swallowtails), it attaches itself at the rear end with silk and then forms a loop of silk that it slips its head through. The position reminds me of a telephone line worker attached to a pole with a safety harness. The prepupa stage usually lasts about 24 hours for the species I have observed, so I set up a photo chamber with the prepupa in it, and waited.

photo chamber

My dining room macro studio with light box, LED light for video, camera and flash for stills (click photos to enlarge)

By the way, I want to thank Sam Jaffe of The Caterpillar Lab for his suggestion of the Folio brand portable light box as a tool for photographing insects. It has its own LED light strips and changeable background colors. And it looks good on a dining room table in times when no one can come to dinner.

The prepupa had formed during the night, so I anticipated it would be the next morning before it transformed. The first one managed to transform during the early morning hours before even I get up. This one was more obliging, and the next morning was still a prepupa, but starting to move slightly. I got some coffee and waited…for the next 30 minutes or so it just made slight wriggles. Then the C-shape started to straighten out, and I knew, from watching swallowtail prepupa do this, that things were about to happen. The video clip below shortens what took about 15 minutes to occur into 1 minute. The footage is at 5X the actual speed and I edited out clips to shorten it. I’ll let this amazing act speak for itself…

8 thoughts on “Transformation

  1. Where is the link to the video?!?!?!! The butterfly fans want to see!!!!!

    On Wed, May 6, 2020, 7:11 AM Roads End Naturalist wrote:

    > roadsendnaturalist posted: “We delight in the beauty of a butterfly, but > rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. ~Maya > Angelou Remember how excited I was to finally photograph a chrysalis of a > Falcate Orangetip butterfly in that post a few days ago? We” >

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