Hey this is probably a super lame question but is it true that caterpillars liquify to become butterflies in the chrysalis? Thank you!!
Not a stupid question at all! I don’t know the details off the top of my head, but my understanding is that you are correct. When the chrysalis first forms, you can see a lot of the inner structure of the caterpillar’s insides (especially when backlit! I have photos, need to dig them up, though), but this disappears pretty quickly. As the butterfly becomes more developed, you can start to see signs of the new anatomy. This is most apparent after the scales on the wings develop, and the wing colors show through the mostly transparent chrysalis.
But what happens between these two stages? Nothing comes in or goes out of the chrysalis, and the easiest way to reuse materials is to break them down into essential components! It’s easier to reknit a sweater if you unravel the old one, and it’s easier to rebuild an insect if you liquefy it (or, rather, it liquefies itself). Living organisms are largely just organized proteins, chemicals, and minerals in water.
Adorable baby milkweed butterflies are READY TO BE BORN!!!
I am not sure if these are Monarch or Queen butterflies, and it DOESN’T MATTER because BOTH ARE FAT AND STUMPY with good A+ stripes and wiggly bits.
I love watching my butterfly fetuses move around and practice chomping before they hatch 😭
August ¾, 2018 (hey it’s 2 am I don’t know what day to call this!)
It’s a Queen! Queens are closely related to monarchs and look very similar, but Queens have 3 pairs of tentacles, while Monarchs have 2:
(Above: Monarch baby, one set of tentacles by the head, the other set by his booty)
I didn’t realize they were born with them! A lot of newborn caterpillars look the same when they are born and I’m used to waiting until the first molt to know for sure.
Never seen a Queen before and have no idea what I’m talking about? That’s okay! Queens mostly stick to the south (they are not nearly as widespread as Monarchs), so if you haven’t spent much time in the southern edges of the US, you wouldn’t be familiar with them.
Left: Queen (white spots on the top wing!) Right: Monarch (black veins on the top wing!)
I’m excited, I’ve never seen a Queen caterpillar before! But…
The newborn baby milkweed butterflies… are cannibalistic. I thought the eggs on the leaf were far enough away from each other:
I was wrong. This morning, I had the happy little caterpillar you see above and a hole in the leaf where the other egg had been.
This wasn’t a case of “hungry newborn baby eats leaf and accidentally consumes sibling,” this caterpillar went out of her way to murder.
August 4, 2018
Wait wait never mind he was just lost!!!!
There are a total of four baby Queens, they grew their first stripes, and they are starting their first molt! I can’t wait for their cute little stumpy tentacles to get longer!
August 6, 2018
The most precious bab
August 8, 2018
Third instar already?
Look at those tentacly bits 😭
August 9, 2018 (morning)
They grow so fast!
Perfect in every way 💛🖤💛
August 9, 2018 (evening)
Back to the Microscope!
I can’t even handle this 😭
August 10, 2018
The microscope pics were from this morning. I’m home from work now
They’re all molting again
August 10, 2018
This season’s hottest trend:
Queens are now 4th instar (caterpillars usually pupate after their 5th)
One of the Queens relocated to the side of the tank and will not move. Usually this is a sign of an upcoming molt. So soon?! They’re so big!
August 12, 2018 (morning)
I didn’t notice the yellow mustache before. They didn’t explode with growth today (or so I think). But they are much easier to kiss now. :X
August 12, 2018 (evening)
Look at their little white socks 😭
Somebody had attached their leaf to the lid of their enclosure with silk, and I rudely detached it when I took it off to feed them this morning. Sorry baby!
August 13, 2018 (morning)
I hope they grow up soon because this Queen Caterpillar Livepost Extravaganza is getting LOOOONG!
Looks like the last molt, unless I counted wrong and I wake up to three chrysalids! Exciting! They got really scrunched up, which I don’t remember from earlier molts. I kinda do want a few more days of caterpillars because they are not quite fat enough for me.
August 13, 2018 (evening)
QUEENS ARE DANGLING. I REPEAT. QUEENS ARE DANGLING.
We’re PUATING TONIGHT!!!! (Guess I counted wrong after all!)
August 13, 2018
Today is The Day
They’re gonna do it!!!!
August 14, 2018 (morning)
I caught two pupating on video, one right after the other (!!!). The gifs are from the video, the photos are about an hour after pupation. They change their shape quite a bit when they harden into a chrysalis!
Will post the video when I have internet, but for now please enjoy these gifs 😭
Sidenote: I’m wearing my moth shirt. I think it’s good luck!
the first two i have no
clue at all what they are. the third is definitely a moth, i think a sun moth
of some kind. the final thing is genus toxomerus, species unidentifiable –
literally, no one can ID a good portion of floridian toxomerus species.
First one—maybe a whitefly???? (I commented on your inat obs)
Second one: mayfly for sure (I do not claim to know mayflies)
Third one, yes, sun moth. I think you have Aetole bella. I’ve seen Aetole tripunctella.
Number four… I’ll tag the fly person. But it might not be Toxomerus. There are way more hover flies than you may think! I gave up on them until I have the time to really focus on them.
I got a ladder out at 1 am and climbed into a tree to get this fat sausage who keeps his arms completely retracted into his neck???
Vine Sphinx moth caterpillar
July 5, 2018 (3 am…)
I set up a nice viney enclosure for the fat sausage. You see the vine he’s on? He stripped it completely bare. When I came back to check on him later, he had managed to break the vine loose from the attachment (so fat!) and was just helplessly dangling on his barren vine.
I found more (different) caterpillars on some possum grape vines I intended to feed him, and found a BUNCH of eggs. My bet is they are more vine sphinx eggs. !!!
Above: the other babies (they look like grapeleaf skeletonizer moths, but there’s a second species that looks identical until adulthood)
Above: Vine Sphinx egg?!
July 6, 2018
Looks like my profile pic!
Hello @viral-inflection! Your profile pic is a Polyphemus Moth caterpillar! They are a type of silk moth (not closely related to sphinx moths), and they are also VERY large.
This bab turns into:
A beautiful large boy 😭
August 8, 2018
I found a Polyphemus the other day!!!
They’re truly breathtaking!!!!
😭 I love him!!!
Is this the same dude??? I found em outside my work at like 8am, he was so big and pretty
I wanted to introduce y’all to a Texas-sized mosquito, the gallinipper. I do a “finger for scale” thing frequently, but in this case somebody thought I was offering a free meal. Haaaaaaa NOPE!
Getting bit by one of these ladies feels about as painful as getting stuck with a hypodermic needle. Not too pleasant!
August 18, 2018
Oh! How could I forget to mention two fun facts?
1. After Hurricane Harvey, the entire state of Texas essentially had a huge population spike in all mosquitoes, including gallinippers. There were so many of these things that without any protection, you would be swarmed by hundreds (not exaggerating for once) within minutes. I had to RUN to/from my car to my front door and frantically scramble with my keys to get in my house with fewer than 20 bites. With protection (waterproof/inpenetrable jacket and pants, nitrile gloves, net hat), there were so many that several managed to crawl into my clothes within 15 minutes.
2. The females may be syringes on wings, but the males?
The males look like they’re ready for Mardi Gras 😂
They have two sets of feathered antennae, and some of them are BLUE*.
* technically the blue ones are a different species from the one with the common name “Gallinipper.” But really, everybody who knows the common name and not the scientific name is going to call every horse-sized mosquito a gallinipper. Anyway. Gallinippers are Psorophora ciliata, the blue ones are Psorophora cyanescens.
Fetal moths. Vine Sphinx eggs in the microscope today. They had started changing colors so I know I needed a closer look. Good thing I did!
Both were green striped this morning. By afternoon, one had turned yellow (the color of the developing caterpillar!), and the one that was still green had developed a visible heartbeat. The yellow one tested out his chompers!!! These caterpillars are the ones with the tails (aka “hornworms”), and you can see the yellow baby’s little tail curled up by his face.
By evening, the yellow one had hatched. So precious!
July 8, 2018
Right so this chompy baby? Still in the egg? From one week ago?
They grow SO FAST.
July 15, 2018
You’re a good caterpillar parent!!!
Awww thanks. I love my babies
Look how much he grew in ONE DAY!!!
Yesterday morning, I saw the baby was molting (again?! So soon?!). Look at his little face popping off!
This evening? All done! And, CHOCOLATE-flavored! Look how big! Remember, this is the babe who was IN THAT EGG 10 DAYS AGO.
For whatever reason, the three I raised in captivity (who molted in captivity) have turned brown in the final caterpillar stage, compared to the wild ones who were green. I’ve read the brown color is common in captive sphinx moths. Very interesting!
What a mess. Their poops are the size of chickpeas and they can strip a vine bare in no time.
One of the older sausages. I have to drag out the ladder to feed them now, they ate all the vine within my reach!
July 18, 2018
My tiny chompy baby, two weeks old:
July 22, 2018
I just got home today and guess what??
Where is baby??? Wait, that mound wasn’t there before… OH!!!! Baby made it all the way to the bottom 😭
(Above: bad photo of the hole he chewed in the paper towel base so I can watch him 😭)
Recently I was fondly remembering his birth, when I noticed his egg was empty… where did he go?!
He was scaling an empty Question Mark chrysalis. What, you don’t have those laying around? 😛
With his two older siblings. My squishy child is growing so fast 😭
July 23, 2018
It has been a while and I was getting concerned, so last night I dug into the dirt pile to check up on the baby.
Look at this dirt cocoon! Nice and spacious!
This rolly pupa is so cute! My baby was spinning around trying to get comfortable. I put him back in his dirt cocoon after I checked up on him. Nice and healthy!
Y’all haven’t smelled anything until a GIANT BEETLE POOPS ON YOU. I swear I smelled like legions of porta potties were distilled into a special “just-for-me” Eau de Scarabée fragrance that I was forced to wear the rest of the night. Like, imagine the grossest subway elevator possible and make it smell worse, and then imagine you had to take a whiff every time you wanted to photograph something. Rude.
Grapevine Beetle, by the Colorado River in Austin, Texas Smelled May 16 / Posted June 13, 2018
Okay so, today while looking for ducks, a GIANT beetle larva (it had to have been something like a leaf beetle but it was massive) scurried out from the bushes and I petted him a bit to slow him down for photos. He ended up crawling into my hoodie sleeve, and when I tried to lift him up he got SO SCARED he pooped in my sleeve a little. Super tiny baby poop though.
IT WAS THE WORST SMELLING THING EVER—WORSE THAN A SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT and yes I’ve been to one don’t ask.
(July 25, 2018 / posted from Calgary)
I transferred the last couple month’s worth of photos to the computer, and went digging for the beetle larva so I could figure out WHAT it WAS that had such FOUL smelling POOPS
This bab. Such sweet, gentle kisses
Such warm, cozy snuggles
Who could you be?
A CARRION BEETLE???
well no wonder!
I still need to wash that sweater :X
Friend seen July 25 in Calgary, AB! / Posted August 17, 2018