Sunday, July 18, 2010


And freaky, and weird, and just plain skin-crawlingly… inexplicable and strange, the way they get to be butterflies, anyway.

As larvae, the caterpillar phase of a butterfly can be pretty cool (although there are some freaky ones of those, too—like the bird-poop mimics, or the larger-than-life view of the little lovely from a few posts back), and although there are some pretty darn drab examples, most people would not argue the sublime beauty of an adult butterfly. But the process of getting from one to the other? Eeew, eew, ick, how the hell do they do it?, and yuck! I'm not going to post the photo I took of the Variegated Fritillary caterpillar beginning its transformation to the adult butterfly the other morning, and wouldn't even if it had been in focus. Gaaack.

On rare occasions, though, instead of being hidden within a plain-as-dirt cocoon, that metamorphosis is cloaked by sheer magnificence:

Ok, perhaps the grandeur can even possibly be overdone in the attempt to make you ignore what is actually going on inside… What these shots fail to show clearly is the pearly iridescence of this chrysalis. It literally looks like the mother-of-pearl lining of a shell. Oh, and then there are those metallic coppery-gold touches.

How could any butterfly possibly compete with that?

(Even after devouring a few violet leaves, the caterpillar never grew very much after I brought it home, and indeed, one online reference has quite a broad wingspan range for the butterfly. To give you some idea of scale, the black background is a piece of craft foam less than an eigth of an inch thick, held up behind the chrysalis for contrast.)