This morning we witnessed a miracle.
We saw this beautiful Black Swallowtail take the first flight of her life.
Whew! It was a near miss, too. I happened to notice the butterfly hanging from the branch, already out of her chrysalis and with her wings fully extended and ready to fly very soon. We had just enough time to bring her branch outside, grab the camera, and watch intently for 5 minutes as she fanned her wings in preparation for flight.
Her first effort brought her down to the deck floor, but when she tried again she fluttered around our heads for a moment before shooting off across the yard, taking the most amazing flight of a being who previously had only experienced life hanging out on one singular parsley plant. What an amazing thing that must be- to suddenly be capable of flight!
This has been the introduction to our learning about butterfly metamorphosis, and it has been so awesome to watch. It started a little over a week ago when I discovered a big, fat caterpillar climbing around on the parsley plants I have growing out on our deck. I went inside and consulted the wise oracle that is the Internet, and quickly found out that our visitor was none other than the larvae of the Black Swallowtail butterfly. These happen to be a super fun and educational butterfly to observe, because they change drastically multiple times during their life cycle- making them very exciting to study.
Right now we have 7 caterpillars on the plant we brought inside, and 19 or 20 (or maybe more- they are hard to count!) on the plant we left outside. When we found the first big caterpillar and brought it inside to observe (on the recommendation of this website, which has been a fabulous source of info for us!), there were also butterfly eggs on the plant. So we have been able to watch the entire life cycle from the beginning, alongside the first one as she went through her magical change.
Some of the babies are getting very close to their final transformation- they only need to eat a lot more parsley and get big and fat first!
And some of them are a bit further away, but it is amazing how much they can change in a short period of time. The ones in the above photo will look totally different in just a day or two!
We have learned SO much about caterpillars and butterflies this week, thanks to nature happening all around us (and us taking the time to observe it!) and the internet to bring information directly to our home.
It's not too late for you to do the same this year: Black Swallowtails lay eggs into September, and ours only spent 8 days in her chrysalis. If you've got some parsley growing outside you might be missing the show as you read this! We actually missed both the transformation into the chrysalis AND out of it this first time, but we were fortunate enough to see the first flight of our new butterfly. Hopefully we will get to see the other miraculous transformations with these others that we are observing in the next few weeks.
Here are some links for more information about these butterflies.