Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Seven is the magic number

I never tire of all the wonders nature presents.

Just this week we witnessed a black swallowtail caterpillar shed its skin and reveal the chrysalis. What an AMAZING transformation to watch.


This caterpillar had attached itself to the side of a post in the kitchen garden. It hung in its signature J form for about a day. The next day we had a torrential down pour. See the rain drops hanging on the caterpillar in the photo in the upper left corner? Despite the rain it was time for the swallowtail to begin its transformation. We happen to be out in the garden checking the rain gauge when its skin began to split. Starting at the back of the head and going down toward its end almost like a zipper. The caterpillar occasionally made a little wiggle to help it along. The entire process took only SEVEN minutes. WOW!

(These photos were a challenge to take. Not only was the lighting terrible but I had to hold an umbrella over the camera while taking these photos. Needless to say the quality isn't great but at least they documented this tiny miracle.)

A solid day of rain resulted in SEVEN inches in a twenty four hour period. Much needed rain but there is a lot of clean-up and repair work to be done to the garden paths.

The winds from the storm helped guide the Monarch butterflies on their migration south. I was thrilled to find SEVEN butterflies in my garden the following day. They were hanging out on the swamp sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) and the zinnia in the kitchen garden.







I hope they will find their way to the milkweed. They are so busy laying eggs they make it more difficult to photograph them there. I need to put the camera down and get busy tagging all these Monarchs.

My new favorite number is SEVEN!

34 comments:

  1. I haven't seen a single Monarch this season - despite an abundance of delicious butterfly food. Maybe they've been stopping by while I'm at work?

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    1. Probably not so surprising since it is reported that the populations are down significantly this year. That is why I couldn't believe it when 7 showed up one afternoon!

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  2. Beautiful creatures - thanks for sharing the pictures and the caterpillar miracle.

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  3. What a great seven minutes!!! I love seeing butterflies, do often, but to watch the process of becoming a chrysalis is soooo neat!!

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    1. Janet it is the first time I've ever watched it happen! I've seen butterflies emerge from the chrysalis but never the caterpillar forming one. Just incredible!

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  4. Karin,
    Wow great photos of the Monarchs! All keepers no question. They are about but have been too busy to look for them. Working today I saw an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, first in weeks.

    Never been patient enough to see a cat turn into a chrysalis, I have missed it by minutes though.

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    1. Thanks Randy! Now, that you mention it I haven't seen and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail recently either.

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  5. Excellent photos--I never would have known you were juggling an umbrella while you took them. How wonderful to have so many Monarchs in your garden!

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    1. The last two days I've been out taking photos of the Monarchs. I have taken so many shots. Is there a point when you've taken too many????

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  7. Fantastic photos. It's nice watching all of this through your eyes.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  8. Karin, what an incredible experience! I had to laugh about holding the umbrella over the camera to get the photos--definitely something I would do, too. The monarch photos are gorgeous. What great captures. You definitely have "lucky 7" happening in your garden!

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    1. The things we do to capture nature on camera, LOL!

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  9. Very nice photos Karin, even with a little juggling act to boot. I think our Monarchs are on the way down your way. I have been seeing hundreds of them on the highways flying south. I never saw that before. There were so many, sadly, a number of them ended up on the windshield.

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    1. Good to hear there you are seeing so many of them. I keep reading about the lower numbers this year. A big problem is that they are mowing roadsides where the milkweed grows thus removing their food source. I hate when a butterfly ends up in the windshield. It breaks my heart knowing how much work it took to get to the adult stage.

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  10. Wonderful pictures! There are few things in Nature more amazing than the metamorphosis of butterflies. I never tire of it.

    It's good to see all those Monarchs. They've been plentiful in my garden this fall, too.

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  11. Hello Karin, My word, what fabulous photos AND taken whilst holding an umbrella!
    Isn't nature wonderful. Just as wonderful is the fact that you were able to be in the right place at the right time to capture this marvellous seven minutes....what a treat for us all. Bests Wishes Daphne

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    1. Thanks Daphne! We have so many caterpillars and chrysalis in our garden but this is the first time I've witnesses this process. I can read about these things but I don't really appreciate it until I experience it!

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  12. Lucky lady. Lucky butterflies too to have discovered your garden. Your comment about having too many pictures made me laugh. I use Lightroom and it tallies the number of photos. I have nearly 5000 for this year and I delete a lot of them! That's just obscene! Clearly I need to spend a couple of hours culling.

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    1. LOL! I need to delete more often. I tend to keep too many photos and also end up with an crazy number! I'm glad I'm not the only one!

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  13. WOW! Great images, colors and angles, beautiful, love them!

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  14. How exciting to see the transformation of the Black Swallowtail cats! We raised several caterpillars this summer and I kept hoping to see that moment where that happened, but they were sneaky!

    What beautiful monarchs! I've been seeing a good number during late summer. My milkweed has been stripped!

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    1. My milkweed isn't looking great right now either. Next year I am going to start growing more mid-summer so that I have some good milkweed for the fall migration.

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  15. That is so amazing! I never knew the chrysalis was under their skin and that the outer skin split. I've always wondered how they created their chrysalis. What an incredible opportunity to see nature's magic. :o) I've found one monarch chrysalis so far and it's still green. I hope the little guy pulls through and turns into a butterfly before it's too late.

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    1. Hope your monarch will make it! They usually end up in Mexico in November so there is still time. Fingers crossed!

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  16. I don't think I ever remember getting 7 in of rain ever in a short period...snow yes! I would just like a few inches...I think the most I remember is 4 inches of rain in one day. How fabulous to witness the butterflies...here it is rare as we have such a short time with them.

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    1. Donna it was a constant down pour all day. I thought we were going to float away. Some plants were just sitting in water. Lots of mulch was washed away too. We definitely needed the rain though.

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  17. wow, what an amazing sight to see and how darn lucky are you that you happened to catch it (just 7 minutes out of 1440 possible minutes in a day!)

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    1. Marguerite it was so cool to watch. There was another caterpillar hanging in the J form a few days later and I kept checking on it to see if I could catch it transforming but I missed it. Makes me wonder if it was one of those once in a lifetime experiences.

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  18. Wow, I can't believe you managed to capture the water droplets on the caterpillar. Amazing shot while holding an umbrella.

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    1. Thanks! It was a bit tricky trying to hold the camera steady with one hand and click. I took a few and fortunately one wasn't blurry. :)

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  19. Oh what a great capture...I would love to see that. I have only seen it in the monarchs I have raised and I have a spicebush cat that I need to put outside..yet keep it safe...Michelle

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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