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.