Yesterday afternoon the Monarch caterpillar attached itself to a heavy vein on the underside of one of the larger milkweed leaves. This was instead of using the supply of sticks we placed around the milkweed stem. The silken pad is dense and strong.
After several hours had passed it released its three pair of front legs and seemed to still be making chewing movements with its mouth parts. The head capsule moved about. Next came the releasing of the rear pair of prolegs.
Then about every passing half hour, another pair of prolegs would release until one pair still held the caterpillar in a horizontal plane.
Finally the last set released as the video function of the camera was recording.
It was still swinging and had not yet converted to the J position when the camera was switched back to still images.
Because the underside of a Monarch caterpillar is rarely photographed, we though we should include this image. The colors were fading from the underside while the top side was still more vivid.
Here it is in the “J” position in which it can hang for as much as a day. This caterpillar stayed as a “J” from about 9 last night until a bit after noon today. The tentacles are starting to droop which is a sign that it will soon pupate. The “J” position also straightens a bit when that is close.
Since it was not yet straightened there seemed to be time to do a couple of needed tasks before making more images. When Linda got back downstairs to the tabletop setup, its skin was lying on the table and it was gyrating and compacting itself into a classic chrysalis. The skin was intact except for the split on the back. The tentacles and skin covering the feet are still discernible.
The yellow and green of the newly pupated monarch was being pushed about and shaped as it twisted itself into shape. The shiny black cremaster that will hold the chrysalis to the silken pad attached while its skin was being shed.
The chrysalis continued to become more interesting as it hardened. It is very shiny and the gold dots are still developing. For this image, cross polarization of the flash and the lens was done to tame some of the sheen. This image was made with a single flash rather than two which is customary. There is more modeling with the shadow. The chrysalis is shown duller than a typical very shiny chrysalis but more of what is happening inside can be seen.
Cross polarization involves placing polarizing film in front of the flashes and using a circular polarizer on the lens. It is a way to minimize specular highlights on shiny objects.
Now we have to wait about 10-13 days to see whether the butterfly is male or female.