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Many people will never see a Monarch chrysalis or see the butterfly emerge, so we wanted to share this series of personal photos. We hope that everyone will enjoy them, share with others, including teachers, and be inspired to protect biodiversity.
It was dusk in early September, and I was removing the ragged leaves from horseradish roots piled in the wheelbarrow. The roots were for friends, and the leaves for the compost.
In the dim light, as I tossed another batch of leaves there was a flash of gold. Odd … I chopped off more leaves, while deciding that this flash was definitely not a firefly.
Rummaging through leaves under the porch light, I discovered a Monarch chrysalis attached to a horseradish leaf. Good choice – these are sturdy leaves. Monarch butterflies lay eggs on milkweed, which is the sole food for the white, black and golden striped larvae. The mature larva often moves to another plant, then hangs as a “J” and forms a chrysalis. This bright green chrysalis was probably fairly new.
Unlike the hundreds of Monarch butterflies I saw in my youth, today they’re a much rarer sight. For decades I’ve grown milkweed for the Monarchs, but I’d never encountered a chrysalis.
The forecast was for cool or subzero overnight temperatures, so I brought this treasure inside and put it near the front window for morning sun.
I waited. I worried that it might have been harmed. A week went by, and the chrysalis looked much the same; perhaps duller. More days, and much the same.
After ten days, I woke to a dark chrysalis.
The outer layer was becoming transparent, and during the morning the markings of the Monarch started to shine through.
The chrysalis has V shaped markings, and the base of the V is where it opens.
Out stepped a creature with a bloated body and tiny crumpled wings.
It carefully clambered, and clung to its glass-like home of the past fortnight. Over the first half hour or so of its life as a butterfly, the creature wiggled to move the fluid (called “hemolymph”) from the body to the wings.
The expanding wings are very fragile, until they expand and dry completely over the coming hours.
With another cool night forecast, I gathered a bouquet, and she daintily walked onto the flowers.
In the morning, with the jug of flowers outdoors, she slowly warmed and opened her wings to absorb more heat.
I briefly turned my attention elsewhere, and when I looked back, she was gone.
— Meg Sears, June 2023
Monarch butterflies are endangered in Canada, and are one of the many reasons Canada — that is all of us — must make bold changes to provide habitat for rich, biodiverse communities, and eliminate or at least substantially reduce use of pesticides, and other toxic chemicals.
Importantly, data-driven organic agriculture can work at scale, and is essential for sustainable agriculture and food security as climate chaos worsens. See PCN’s federal submission on the Sustainable Agriculture Strategy, and ask your MP to support truly sustainable agriculture.
Choosing safest options to minimize radiation from communications and electricity transmission infrastructure can also help. We collaborated to summarize the scientific evidence that “wireless” radiation can impact all species and harm biodiversity at WirelessEnviroImpacts.science.
NEXT STEPS: The federal government is discussing and consulting on measures to protect and enhance biodiversity, and PCN is paying attention. You can sign up for newsletters to be the first to learn of issues and opportunities!