Change Is The Only Constant In Life — Heraclitus
Every day is an exciting day when I’m out in nature, but one particular Tuesday was especially exciting. Walking along the East Meadow Path at Oakland Lake Wildflower Meadow in Bayside, I sighted an acorn shaped structure hanging from a yet-to-bloom aster plant. It may have been the same shape as an acorn, but it was an acorn on steroids, at least twice the size of a normal oak seed. It looked like a pendant that could be worn as a necklace. Out came my phone camera and I quietly photographed this peculiar discovery without disturbance. I truly had no idea what it could be until I saw the orange wings hidden inside. It was a Monarch chrysalis, the first one I’ve ever seen. The next day I returned and the butterfly had already emerged completing his Houdini act. The empty hanging tattered chrysalis was still attached to the aster branch complete with black dots of Monarch blood at the top of the casing. Later I read that when the orange wings become visible inside the chrysalis (as you can see on the photo), the butterfly will escape within 24 hours. That’s a long time to wait, but now I wish I would have given it a bit more time. In my next life I plan on not being so impatient.
Inside the chrysalis, the Monarch’s mouth parts are reconstructed so that the emerging butterfly will have no chewing mouthparts but, instead, a proboscis (a straw-like apparatus which will be used to sip nectar). Never again will it eat solid foods as the caterpillar had enjoyed on the milkweed plant. The emerging butterfly has 3 pairs of legs, not 8 like the caterpillar. Its eyesight has dramatically improved from what it was when it was a caterpillar, and its eyes are quite large. Reproductive organs are formed. And within 5 – 7 days after being freed from captivity a Monarch butterfly is old enough to mate…and so begins the life cycle of the next generation.
There were only 2 Monarchs fluttering around in the meadow that day and I knew exactly which one had newly emerged. He was perfect, a prince of the pasture. It’s easy to identify the sex of a Monarch. If you look at the photo of the Monarch, on the lower hind wings there are 2 tiny black spots. Those are the marks of a male Monarch.
Amazingly all of this happened in just 10-14 days. As Archie Bunker said to Edith when she was going through ‘the change of life’, “OK, Edith, you have 5 minutes, now change.” If only it were that easy!!
Well, have a great week, stay safe, walk a mile or two and embrace the change all around us.