Eclosure

You do not just wake up and become the butterfly. Growth is a process.

~Rupi Kaur

Eclosure = the emergence of an insect from the pupa case, or of a larvae from the egg…

Nature is always providing examples of remarkable survival and transformation. Witnessing eclosure is one of those magical things to me (must be because of my love for all things caterpillar). I have been lucky over the years to stumble upon freshly emerged butterflies and moths in the wild a number of times. It is always a special moment to see these fragile creatures as they begin their relatively short-lived winged lives. Here are a few of my favorites over the past few years…

Luna mothfreshly emerged

Luna moth just after eclosure, Jones Lake State Park (click photos to enlarge)

Red-spotted purple butterfly freshly emerged

Red-spotted Purple butterfly in our yard, hardening its wings while resting on its chrysalis

Zebra swallowtail shortly after emergence

A stunning fresh Zebra Swallowtail discovered by a summer camper at the NC Botanical Garden a few summers ago

It is thrilling to find a fresh emergence in the wild, but most of my experiences with eclosure have been with caterpillars I have raised or pupa I have found and protected. We have some mesh pop-up butterfly cages that we raise larvae and house pupae in on our screen porch. This gives them the temperature changes and humidity needed for survival. The mesh sides (and plenty of sticks in the cage) allow the newly emerged adult to climb and hang until it can pump fluids from its swollen abdomen through the wing venation to pump up the wings and allow them to harden for flight. Last year, I had a Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar create a chrysalis inside one of the chambers and overwinter. We were also given a few Cecropia Moth cocoons to rear. These have been with us since September, and, earlier this week, they all made their official entry into the world as winged beauties.

spicebush swallowtail freshly emerged

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly with spent chrysalis in foreground

One of the best things about seeing these newly emerged butterflies and moths is being able to closely examine and photograph them as they complete their transformation. You can get details that are much more difficult to capture once they are capable of flight.

spicebush swallowtail closeup of head

Close up of head and proboscis

spicebush swallowtail wing detail

The colors and patterns are at their most vibrant just after eclosure

cecropia moth antenae

Close up of antennae of Cecropia Moth

The amazing thing about the Cecropia Moths is that they all emerged on the same night. We released 4 of the 6 the first night, but kept two that were mating, releasing them the following evening.

cecropia moth on leaves

North America’s largest native moth (wingspan up to 7 inches) just after release

The female laid several patches of eggs inside the chamber so we now will have a bunch of hungry mandibles to feed in the coming weeks. I can’t think of a better summer pastime…

cecropia moth eggs

The next generation

Bears and Butterflies

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do…  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.

~Mark Twain

I think that sentiment is one of Melissa’s primary views of how to live a life. But, even she was a bit reluctant to head out early Saturday morning for a day trip to Pungo. We have both had full schedules at work these past few months with no let up in sight. We had planned this trip as a weekend get-away to meet our friend, Petra, and a couple from the Netherlands that had been clients a few years ago. Plans changed, and we decided not to camp and just do a day trip. We left about 7 a.m., arriving a little after 10 a.m., and found our friends alongside the road after having seen one large bear out in a field. But, they anticipated more now that the ‘bear whisperers” were here (no pressure there). So, off we went, and, luckily, there they were – a family of four bears just down the road.

bears in field

Family of black bears in one of the fields at Pungo (click photos to enlarge)

It turned out to be a rather slow day at Pungo, but we had a great time in absolutely beautiful weather – walking, talking, laughing with friends, discussing the state of the world from another country’s perspective, and getting glimpses of nature. Butterflies were very active, especially the palamedes swallowtails and zebra swallowtails.

palamedes swallowtail on thistle

Palamedes swallowtail feeding on a roadside thistle

palamedes swallowtail mating dance

Palamedes swallowtail mating dance

monarch on vetch

Monarch foraging on vetch

We even had two monarchs nectaring on small wildflowers along Bear Road. Birds were abundant as well – a pair of adult bald eagles, wild turkeys, a green heron, and lots of warblers (prairie, black-throated blue, black and white, prothonotary).

bear in thicket

Our last bear of the day

But the day belonged to the bears, 14 in all. The last one was the closest, just across a roadside canal, low in the brush, nibbling on various leaves. It was a glorious day that ended with a wonderful dinner in Belhaven, and a late night return for us. But it was all worth it – seeing our Dutch friends, being outside on a beautiful day, watching those bears – and I’m glad we did it. Next….