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Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Witnessing a Miracle, Part 2
FINALLY! Blogger is cooperating on uploading the pictures! Here's the rest of my story from Monday...

I brought my dishes inside and hit the loo before I went back. Fortunately, I had the camera in my hand when I ducked back out to take a peek, because the butterfly was already halfway out!

Just like us, the butterflies emerge head-first. See the long legs to the left in this shot? And it practically explodes in size once the chrysalis is breached. BTW, the legs are dark blue in color. I never knew that.

One of the first things I noticed was how fat the abdomen was. And how tiny the wings were! It didn't appear that the butterfly was normal, because I expected the wings to be more wrinkled. They looked only a bit crumpled but fairly normal other than that, just very small.

As the minutes ticked by and nothing changed with the wings, I figured I'd coddled and encouraged a mutant who would never fly. The one that I finally get to see, and have a camera handy to document, is the one that's got something wrong with it!

In these pictures, you can see how the wings just expanded rather than uncrumpled. They were a little rippled in the beginning, but I'd describe the sequence as more like a balloon being blown up than how a piece of mylar paper wadded up in your fist unfolds when you open your hand. I really couldn't tell how large the wings would become. I almost held my breath, hoping it would be a normal butterfly! The bulk in the abdomen also was slowly redistributed, as the butterfly's body elongated and fit more neatly between the wings. See how chubby the butterfly still is in the first two of these pictures? There was no sign fo that bulge by the time the wings were completely open.

Blogger has decided that I've got enough photos in this post, so I'll rearrange and upload a few more later. This whole thing was fascinating and I'm delighted to share it with you. Yesterday two more emerged, the one under the lip of the catnip planter and one from the day lilies. I couldn't spend as much time out there but I did check in on them and snap a few shots throughout the day.

I've learned that there are some home-schoolers who are using this blog to track the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, which is unbelievably cool. This is the sort of thing that Moogie (my mom) made sure we knew and understood. My family members all have a strong scientific curiousity about the world around us, and it does make life more interesting. Enjoy!

posted by Liddy Midnight @ 9:19 AM   12 comments
Witnessing a miracle
This morning I went outside to check the progress of the transformations occurring around the yard. And what do I see? TWO of the butterflies were ready to emerge! One of the two on the bottom of the cornerpost of the house and one in the day lilies. Each chrysalis had become transparent, showing the gorgeous color of the wings inside.

See the difference here? The one that's ready to pop has increased in size. That's the pressure of the developing butterfly! Look out, it's gonna BLOW!

I resolved to catch one in the act. To that end, I took my breakfast outside and ate on the porch, facing the one most ready to hatch. Of course, nothing happened while I was there.

posted by Liddy Midnight @ 8:24 AM   3 comments
Monday, September 18, 2006
Brief Joke of the Week
Here goes. It's bad. Don't say I didn't warn you!


The worst air disaster ever recorded in the county occurred earlier today when a Cessna 152, a small two-seater plane, crashed into a cemetery here early this morning.

Junior and Bubba, toiling as search and rescue workers, have recovered 826 bodies so far. Officials expect that number to climb as digging continues into the night.
posted by Liddy Midnight @ 3:55 PM   2 comments
Saturday, September 16, 2006
The Great Emergence!

I posted the last one not twenty minutes ago, and I just went to show a neighbor how the orange color was showing, and the butterfly was there! I feel like I'm a mommy. LOL If I'd hung around to pull up weeds, I would've caught it as it emerged. I know they're wrinkled when they first appear, after being scrunched up inside that little capsule. But this one is ready for flight! And the chrysalis is totally transparent.

posted by Liddy Midnight @ 11:35 AM   3 comments
More color!

It's now three hours later, and here's the picture I just took. I didn't need to enhance the color at all. It's developing!

I have to go out now, but I'll pop back before dark to check the butterfly's progress. What drama! What suspense!

Are you on the edge of your seat? I am!

posted by Liddy Midnight @ 11:15 AM   0 comments
Almost there!

Today I saw something new when I checked the progress of the monarchs. Two of the pupae have begun to become transparent! The orange and black colors of the butterfly can be clearly seen in one; the other still is a little waxy in appearance. I can make out the dark lines of the pattern but the orange doesn't come through yet. I enhanced the colors a bit in this photo to make it more obvious. I hope you can see it.

Of course, I've been popping out the door every twenty minutes or so to check on that one (it's on the side of the house, just above the foundation) because I'm afraid I'll miss the Great Emergence!

I have a commitment to help set up a booth at a tradeshow this afternoon. I'll check when I can. If I miss this one, there are a bunch more for me to try to surprise in the act.


posted by Liddy Midnight @ 9:49 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
New Review for VENUS RISING!
Since it came out in paperback, I don't think there's been a review, until now. And the reviewer loved it!

"The danger, intrigue, and hot sex are wrapped up in a solid plot, complete with sympathetic and believable characters. Sara is bound by duty to complete her mission without blowing her cover, so the conflict she experiences in having to lie to Link is very compelling. The chemistry between the characters is explosive and the sex scenes are hot enough to melt your screen. Just when I thought the story was winding down, the authors surprised me with another twist. I could not put this down until I finished the story. Venus Rising is a blend of science fiction, suspense, romance, and pure sex that I think you will find completely enthralling." Read it all

Woo-hoo! I love collaborating with Ann Onymous; we have to get cracking on a new story. Several ideas are in the works, but nothing's coalesced yet. This just might be the incentive to get 'er done!

posted by Liddy Midnight @ 1:04 PM   10 comments
The most unlikely places...
have a chrysalis! Today I discovered four more, and they were formed on the leaves and dead flower stalks of day lilies. That's not a very secure or stable location, as far as I'm concerned. One was hidden down in the leaves.

If they don't hatch soon, the leaves will be dead and on the ground when the butterfly emerges!

They are gorgeous, aren't they?

posted by Liddy Midnight @ 10:35 AM   4 comments
Monday, September 04, 2006
When does a chrysalis form?
Here's a night shot of the one hanging on the catnip planter. It formed after dark on Friday night. All of the ones that have formed or been located since Friday morning have been opaque and waxy, with gold metallic markings. They look much sturdier than the first one I was following.

The photo doesn't look that great, but I'm delighted - I use a Sony Mavica, and this was after dark, when I could see absolutely nothing in the display on the back of the camera! The flash worked well and I had it properly aimed. Some of the catnip in the planter is in focus and the chrysalis somewhat less so. The color shows up well, and the shape is distinctive enough for it to be instantly recognizable.

I now have a sample of four, and I have to say that the worms don't always wait until dark. Early this afternoon, while I was running errands--in daylight--the caterpillar that was hanging upside down yesterday and this morning formed its pupa!

The picture on the left is the one that formed in early afternoon. The one on the right had the matallic look to it this morning, which made me expect it to form the chrysalis tomorrow. It made one later this afternoon!

There are still a number of large caterpillars on the milkweed, as well as a few smaller ones. I haven't seen any new tiny guys in over a week. The rain and cooler weather appears to have inhibited the butterflies from laying eggs, or else kept those eggs from hatching. Here's a shot of the busiest section I could find. How many caterpillars do you see?


posted by Liddy Midnight @ 6:36 PM   6 comments
Saturday, September 02, 2006
The saga continues...
Okay, so I dusted off my hands and got out the camera again. It was time to search for more caterpillars on their way to butterflyhood.

Just how far can a caterpillar crawl? Pretty danged far! The monarchs eat only milkweed, so I know where they had to originate. I found a cluster of three of them, already in chrysalis form, about 15 feet away from the milkweed stand.

You may notice something about these. They're very shiny and a lot more solid than the first one I found. The covering on that one looked almost thin in comparison, and grew thinner as the days passed. There were the same golden metallic spots but it quickly lost the smooth opacity of these. That's gotten me to thinking. Maybe the first one wasn't actually going to hatch. That sure helps me feel better about losing it!

I also located another caterpillar hanging upside down in its comma shape, this time on the back of the redwood catnip planter. I took pix yesterday (left) and this morning (right). There wasn't much change overnight; I suspect the cool weather may have slowed down its metamorphosis. It appears to be acquiring a green-gold metallic sheen. I hope you can see that in these shots. (The most recent one, to the right, has a drop of rain on it.)

I hope this one develops nicely right where it is. There's absolutely no reason for it to be disturbed--it's on the side of the planter away from the street and also several feet away from any weeds--out of reach of an overzealous weedwhacker! I'm going to check it in a few hours to see if there's any further change. The cool weather (temps in the 60s) may have slowed down the process to where I can get photos as the metamorphosis occurs.


posted by Liddy Midnight @ 10:00 AM   5 comments
Friday, September 01, 2006

I am devastated. Simply devastated.

Disaster has struck, in the form of the neighbor who does our yard work. He knows not to touch the milkweed in the garden. He has never weedwhacked the area bordering the street - until last evening.

This morning, as is my wont, I went out to count caterpillars and see how the milkweed leaf supply is holding up. You can't imagine my horror when I saw only a ravaged stem where the small plant bearing the chrysalis stood yesterday. Only a few tattered leaves remained, scattered on the macadam. I picked through them, seeking some bits or perhaps the entire thing. No luck.

I came into the house in tears. Hey, I admit it. What else would you expect? I weep at sappy commercials on TV - and I had invested some emotion, to say nothing of time, in this little creature! And if you can't understand why I mourn the loss of one of these gorgeous butterflies, there's something amiss.

Mistah Midnight came out to examine the area and declared there wasn't enough debris to account for the entire plant. Our search widened beyond the immediate vicinity. We couldn't find where the gardener (that sounds so much better than yard man, doesn't it?) had tossed the stalk, or any of the other yard detritus.

I couldn't go over, all red-eyed and weepy, to ask him what he did with the trash. (My neighbors already think I'm a bit odd, since a while ago I trapped for eight months for a runaway indoor cat - I'm sure they phrase it a little more colorfully than that.) Mistah Midnight, bless his heart, did, but the guy wasn't home.

So, the chrysalis is gone. Probably bagged up and tossed in the back of the truck and on its way to a landfill somewhere. I just hope the bag lands on top and breaks open, so there's an off-chance the thing hatches.

While I was emoing all over the place, I decided that I couldn't just abandon the monarchs and my reports here on my blog. Through my tears, I began casting around for where else the caterpillars might have gone to pupate.

I'll post again later with a report. I've got to wash my face and help with the kitchen renovations. And yes, I know I'm evil! :-) But that report doesn't belong under the same heading as this post. So I'll be back later.

posted by Liddy Midnight @ 9:07 AM   8 comments

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Name: Liddy Midnight
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