Question Mark pupation! When a caterpillar is …

Question Mark pupation! When a caterpillar is nearing pupation, she will spin a dense silk pad that secures her chrysalis. It’s a little hard to see in here, but the Question Marks spin a HOT PINK silk pad! When the pad is ready, she will grab onto it REAL TIGHT with her rear pair of prolegs (first image, the gif). I don’t know what is happening physiologically at this stage (the prolegs may change in structure with attachment), but when she is attached, she will begin the pupation process. 

Question Marks hang upside down in a curved “J” shape. The larval skin will split and the chrysalis will emerge. I haven’t witnessed this for the Question Marks yet, but it’s strange and interesting for the species I have seen— the chrysalis is a formless blob shaped kinda like the caterpillar, and it wiggles around to make sure the larval skin drops off. While doing this wiggle, the chrysalis will carefully “step out” from the skin and attach to the silk pad. The end of the chrysalis has some tiny hooks (like velcro!) called the cremaster. Sometimes the chrysalis will have an accident and fall off, but when that happens, you can find any patch of silk (they leave it EVERYWHERE) and reattach! 

The outer skin of the chrysalis will slowly harden into a protective layer, which has the distinctive shape for that type of butterfly. Question Mark chrysalids look like a gnome face, and those white patches are pearlescent and sparkle like diamonds! On the chrysalis, you can see the face and developing wings.

The night before the butterfly emerges, the chrysalis will appear to darken as the body and wings of the butterfly develop their coloration. 

July 3, 2018