We were out in the front garden last night after supper, running around and checking on the caterpillars, when I noticed one decidedly out of place, parked far away from the food, on the porch railing. “Silly thing,” I thought, “let’s get you out of here and back at the buffet where you belong.” I went off to find a suitable leaf to scoop it up, planning to reunite it with its siblings who were still plowing through the food supply as relentlessly as, I’m told, teenage boys can. The caterpillar didn’t move in the moment I was gone: it was still there, still as death.
It didn’t look that good, really, its bright stripes shadowed to a dingy grey, head down but making no progress towards the bed where the milkweed was growing, just stuck there…
Exactly. Stuck there, with a tiny white blob of something gluing it upside down to the wood. It wasn’t moving because it was on the brink of moving on, done with this caterpillar business, and ready for something else.
It was too dark to take a picture then, but this morning, I found this:
That little bit of scurf at the top is what’s left of the stripy caterpillar skin. I know that because we interrupted today’s breakfast to watch this:
The caterpillar twisted and squirmed as it shucked itself out of its old skin. And it didn’t take long for the new pupa – which was still fairly fat and soft and grub-like when it first emerged -- to shrink itself up into a hard shell (can you see how the orange stripes condensed?) to wait for what’s next.
Monarch Watch says 10 to 14 days. We’ll be waiting, too.
Postscript: the butterflies have arrived! Follow the whole story here.