Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Out of a green chrysalis, a yellow butterfly

Almost three weeks ago, I posted a photo of a green caterpillar (... Pooping caterpillar) that was eating a kale leaf on my desk. I had it in a large canning jar, with a piece of cloth over the open mouth to provide air, but keep it contained. Three days later, it had formed a chrysalis on the underside of the cloth.

Chrysalis, day one.

I've been checking it several times a day; nothing was happening until this morning (Monday), when the colour seemed to be paler. Around noon, there were two small yellow patches on the sides.

But I was busy cooking and packing for our trip up the Sunshine Coast tomorrow, and I didn't watch closely enough. When I checked again, a little after 4 PM, the butterfly was out of the chrysalis, drying her wings.

Cabbage white butterfly, and old chrysalis.

The cast-off case.

Showing the split down the top front, where the new butterfly emerged.

The wings looked greenish at first, but as I watched, they lightened up and turned yellow. Most of the cabbage whites I see have lost enough feathers that they are mainly white.

Her wings still have creases where they were folded inside the chrysalis.

At first, she sat there, not moving, but when I got too close with the camera, she fluttered off, landing on my curtains, ...

One spot is visible. The others are hidden in the folded wings. She is a female; she has two spots on each wing.

... and then, on the hedge outside.

The wings are still crinkly, 10 minutes later. The two spots are visible, barely.

She sat there, on the leaf, not moving. Now, even when I brought Laurie to see her and tickled her antennae, trying to encourage her to open her wings for him, she sat perfectly still. (Good thing, too; the chickadees and sparrows were feeding under her shrub; if she had moved, she would have been dessert.)

Face view.

Green spotted eyes, and a coiled feeding tube. (Click for the full-size photo.)

I went back at intervals to see if she'd moved. For well over an hour, she rested in the sunshine. After supper, she had gone.

Happy flying, little one!


  1. Always ejoy your progressions and love how you follow through with all your interestig finds. Inquiring minds just gotta know.

    Have a great retreat as you head up the Sunshine Coast. May you find many teats for your eyes that tickle the mind and imagination.

  2. She's a beauty. Did you know that they're not a native butterfly, but one of the many accidentally introduced insects in the US? It continually surprises me to see how many of the plants and animals we see around us every day are, in fact, invaders.

  3. thank-you for bringing this wonderful thing to us. The narrative, the photos superb

  4. What a beautiful creature! Jeepers. I just learned that in the Pieridae their yellow color comes from, uh, shall we say, their waste products? At least, that's what the Wiki sayeth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pieridae. I love the colors on that creature. wow.

  5. Thanks, Eileen, I'm sure we will!

    Louise, so many "invaders"! I think we should rethink that concept; even our so-called native plants probably originated somewhere else, too. As did we.

    Thanks, Upupaepops.

    Biobabbler, I didn't know that! So the whiter ones are just cleaner, then.

  6. How fun to follow the transformation. Have a good trip up to the Sunshine Coast including Powell River. Wish we could have been there at the same time. - Margy

  7. This was awesome! I've wanted to watch a chrysalis like this forever...thank you for the photos and the narration!

    Have a great trip up the Sunshine Coast...a beautiful spot for sure!

  8. The metamorphosis of butterflies and moths is still one of the most wonderful and astonishing feats of nature.

    It was a 'small white' or 'cabbage white' by the way, but then you probably knew that. Latin name Pieris rapae

  9. Thanks, Mark. I forgot to name her, didn't I?

  10. Actually, I didn't. The first photo, of the chrysalis gives the common name, at least. Maybe I should have added the Latin, too.

  11. Yep, you did - missed that. Just been on a butterfly walk near my home - 15 species in half an hour; excellent


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