25 June 2009

Monarch, backlit by the sunrise

This young lady eclosed (emerged from her chrysalis) before 0630 this morning. Her chrysalis had turned black last night, so I knew she would emerge today, but last year most of our monarchs eclosed at mid-morning. This young lady grew from the first egg we found this year, so perhaps her early appearance this morning reflects her eagerness to see the world.

I believe at our latitude in the upper Midwest the monarchs are double-brooded. This one will mate, lay eggs, and after a brief life die. Her children will emerge in late summer and head to northern Mexico to spend the winter.

When I found her this morning, she was hanging from her empty chrysalis and in the process of inflating her wings. I transferred her to the screen porch screen to complete the process, and when I returned a few hours later, the morning sun had risen above the trees, backlighting her dramatically.

The forewing slightly overlaps the backwing, creating the orange area in the center on each side. The backlighting somewhat distorts her true color, making her appear almost yellow, but it does nicely define the venation of the wings.

And a note to Philip - this one is definitely a she, not a he. There seems to be some sexual dimorphism, with females smaller, but the more definitive clue is the absence of the "little black balls" (androconial patches) that the males exhibit - shown in the fourth photo in this post.

Click photo to enlarge to wallpaper size.


  1. Wonderful shot! What a cool thing to do, raising butterflies.

  2. Beautiful! I live in the woods in central Tennessee and we don't see too many monarchs but we do get the most amazing variety of moths. Thanks for posting this visual ode to summer, rebirth, renewal and nature.


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