Monarch Butterfly Emerging from its Chrysalis
Dexter + Ann Arbor Photographer Betsy's Photography

Monarch Butterfly Emerging from its Chrysalis

This week of my life was crazy — we spent hours watching for signs that the butterflies would be emerging soon (also called “eclosing”). I learned that the top part of the chrysalis gets very bumpy and “slinky like” — rather than being smooth. Yes, indeed it does. But that’s still not really an accurate measure of how long you have, because the whole process takes time.

All together, I photographed three different butterflies eclosing. ]It’s amazing how the butterfly climbs out, and interesting how small its wings are, and how swollen its abdomen is. The wings took a lot longer to dry and “grow” to full size than I expected. And the butterflies didn’t fly away immediately. We put them outside within hours, but they stayed nearby for hours or even days longer.

And just like that, she was free from her chrysalis. The chrysalis was empty, the Monarch hanging onto it, though looking very different from what you’d recognize. When Monarch butterflies first emerge, their wings are shriveled and their abdomens are swollen. The fluid drains from the abdomen and the wings fill out, and eventually dry.

From Toby’s butterfly book, I learned that it’s important for butterflies to stay out of direct sunlight while their wings are filing out and drying so that they can “grow” to full size. If the wings dry too soon, the Monarch would have crippled wings and be unable to fly or survive in nature.

The Monarch butterfly hung from its chrysalis for at least half an hour until its wings filled out. After some time had passed, the Monarch’s wings were finally getting to the point she could use them to fly. She didn’t fly away from several hours after we took her outside, but we wanted to make sure that when she did decide to fly, it wouldn’t be inside!

Now, you may recall me saying that I borrowed a video camera from my dad in order to film one of the butterflies eclosing. That’s true. I managed to film two butterflies eclosing from their chrysalises. Here’s the video I created. Portions of the film are time lapsed so that you can experience the entire transformation:


Location: Dexter, MI.