Macro Photos of Monarch Butterfly Emerging from its Chrysalis

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It seems like forever and a day since I last shared photos of the Monarch caterpillars.  So thank you for your patience!  I am really excited to share these macro photos of the Monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.  That week of my life was crazy — we spent hours watching for signs that the butterflies would be emerging soon (also called “eclosing”).  I learned that the top part of the chrysalis gets very bumpy and “slinky like” — rather than being smooth.  Yes, indeed it does.  But that’s still not really an accurate measure of how long you have, because the whole process takes time.

I was blessed to be able to witness four of the Monarch butterflies as they eclosed.  We “missed” another one, and the last one was a sneaky little guy.  Fortunately I’d turned on the video camera before putting my attention elsewhere, so it was caught on film. All together, I photographed three different butterflies eclosing.  The others I watched.  And let me tell you, this miracle didn’t get old or become more mundane.  It’s amazing how the butterfly climbs out, and interesting how small its wings are, and how swollen its abdomen is.  The wings took a lot longer to dry and “grow” to full size than I expected.  And the butterflies didn’t fly away immediately.  We put them outside within hours, but they stayed nearby for hours or even days longer.

My boys are set on doing this again next year.  I think the self-started milkweed plants in my garden bed may have to stay.  We’ll see what spring brings, of course.

Make sure you don’t miss the end of this post, where you can watch a time lapse video of one of the Monarch butterflies emerging from its chrysalis!

monarch caterpillar chrysalises with one monarch butterfly ready to emerge eclose
These Monarch chrysalises are in various stages of development. As they become ready to eclose (emerge), the chrysalis becomes more and more translucent. The middle chrysalis was hours from being uninhabited. The one on the left still had days. And the one on the right was a little further along.
monarch butterfly about to eclose, emerge from chrysalis, macro photography, michigan nature photographer
This is the first in a series of photographs I took while the Monarch butterfly eclosed (emerged) from its chrysalis. You can see right through the chrysalis, even such details as the wing pattern and the butterfly’s eye (at bottom left).
monarch butterfly eclosing from chrysalis, macro nature photography dexter mi photographer
And the process of eclosing begins! It was so exciting to look over and realize the Monarch butterfly had split its chrysalis open! Do you see the slight vertical crack along the left side? So cool!!
monarch butterfly working its way out of chrysalis, macro nature photography, entomology photos
Over the next minute, the Monarch butterfly worked her way out of the chrysalis. This first part seemed the most laborious.
monarch butterfly eclosing from chrysalis, legs almost out of chrysalis. macro butterfly photographer
And just like that, the Monarch’s legs were almost free!
monarch butterfly emerging from chrysalis, macro nature butterfly photo, michigan photographer
She wriggled her way to freedom a bit at a time. …getting free from the chrysalis that allowed her transformation to take place.
monarch butterfly almost eclosed from chrysalis, monarch butterfly emerging photo, michigan photographer
The Monarch seemed to hesitate here for a bit, I’m sure there was unseen work going on so she could finish the process of emerging.
monarch butterfly just after eclosing, swollen abdomen and shriveled wings, macro nature photography, butterfly photos
And just like that, she was free from her chrysalis. The chrysalis was empty, the Monarch hanging onto it, though looking very different from what you’d recognize, no? When Monarch butterflies first emerge, their wings are shriveled and their abdomens are swollen. The fluid drains from the abdomen and the wings fill out, and eventually dry.
monarch butterfly hanging from chrysalis just after it emerged. macro butterfly photo michigan
From Toby’s butterfly book, I learned that it’s important for butterflies to stay out of direct sunlight while their wings are filing out and drying so that they can “grow” to full size. If the wings dry too soon, the Monarch would have crippled wings and be unable to fly or survive in nature.
monarch butterfly with swollen abdomen after just eclosing from chrysalis, nature photography macro photographer michigan
Here’s another view of the Monarch butterfly’s swollen abdomen.
Monarch butterfly wings drying after emerging from chrysalis, view of monarch eyes and proboscis
I took a few photos from a different angle, so you could see the butterfly’s eyes and proboscis (or, as my kids call it, the butterfly’s “straw tongue”).
monarch butterfly while wings drying after eclosing, macro photo of monarch eyes and head, nature photographer
I thought the symmetry on this photography was really neat. Love all the detail. And you can see how wavy the Monarch’s wings are too.
monarch butterfly hanging from empty chrysalis, waiting for wings to dry, macro butterfly photo
I took several photos of the Monarch while her wings dried and grew bigger. I like this one because you can see her proboscis is unfurled a bit.
monarch butterfly with wrinkled wings waiting for the wings to dry after eclosing, monarch macro photographs michigan
This photo shows the full length of the wings, and it is very apparent that the wings aren’t ready to be used yet (they’re way too wrinkled and wavy).

monarch butterfly hanging from chrysalis after eclosing, macro nature photography michigan
The Monarch butterfly hung from its chrysalis for at least half an hour until its wings filled out.
monarch butterfly hanging from chrysalis, wings not quite ready to fly, michigan photographer
Here’s a full length photo of the Monarch as it was waiting for its wings to finish doing their thing.
monarch butterfly macro close up of head, macro nature photography
Here’s a close up macro photo of the Monarch butterfly’s head. I am continually amazed by all the detail in such a small creature.
monarch butterfly eye, macro nature photographer
And here’s a really close up view of the Monarch butterfly’s eye. How incredible is that??
macro detail photograph of monarch butterfly wing, macro nature photographer
Another detail shot, this time of the Monarch’s wing. So incredible!
Monarch butterfly macro photograph of its head, macro nature photograph
And one last close up photograph of the Monarch butterfly.
Monarch butterfly with wings drying, hanging from chrysalis after eclosing, macro nature photographer
After some time had passed, the Monarch’s wings were finally getting to the point she could use them to fly. She didn’t fly away from several hours after we took her outside, but we wanted to make sure that when she did decide to fly, it wouldn’t be inside!
monarch butterfly with proboscis, hanging from chrysalis, macro nature photo
I love this photo because you can see the Monarch’s proboscis is partially extended. Those green chrysalises in the background weren’t ready on the day I took this photo, but they emerged successfully some days later.
monarch butterfly hanging near other monarch chrysalises, maccro nature photography michigan
And one final photograph of the Monarch butterfly. In this one, you can see all four chrysalises, including the butterfly’s empty one.

Now, you may recall me saying that I borrowed a video camera from my dad in order to film one of the butterflies eclosing.  That’s true.  I managed to film two butterflies eclosing from their chrysalises.  Here’s the video I created.  Portions of the film are time lapsed so that you can experience the entire transformation:

 

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