May 24th, 2011 by Steve Gettle

Here is a series of pictures I made a few years ago. The pictures show the main stages of a monarch caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly. This group of pictures was made over about a two week period. All of the action takes place at the beginning and end of that two week period. Near the end you can tell when the butterfly is about to emerge because just before the hatch the chrysalis becomes transparent allowing you to see the butterfly inside.


I came home early one afternoon and found a transparent chrysalis, I knew that the butterfly was just about to emerge. So I got my gear ready and kept a close eye on things. As the day went on I could see the butterfly moving inside struggling to break free. About ten o'clock that evening I had myself completely convinced that it was going to happen very soon. At midnight, (twelve hours in now), I'm quite certain that the chrysalis is just about to burst. By three in the morning I'm seriously considering using a razor blade to perform an emergency butterflyectomy. Well, five am comes and I certainly can't go to bed, I had already spent fifteen hours waiting for this thing! I could not imagine going to sleep and missing it at this point!  The clock on the mantle announces eight in the morning, and still no butterfly, OK this is just getting ridiculous!  In the end the butterfly you see here was 'born' at 11:00 AM on a beautiful July morning, after I had spent just over 23 hours on stakeout!

Metamorphosis 2


I can tell you that I took a much deserved nap that afternoon.


Metamorphosis 3

Metamorphosis 4


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One Response to “Metamorphosis”

  1. Michael Smith says:

    Beautiful images and great dedication to documenting the final stage. I had the pleasure of documenting the life cycle of the monarch in my back yard last summer. Here is a timelapse video I created of a caterpillar forming it’s chrysalis.

    Here is another timelapse I created of 3 monarchs emerging from their chrysalis.

    I have combined these videos, with several stills documenting the life entire life cycle of the monarch that my wife uses in her classroom. I don’t have that video available online at this time.

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