On the last day of March I found a colourful caterpillar on the wall of my garden and took it into my house to take photos. I have a vivarium and placed it on a leaf where it sat and began placing fine threads of silk near its head. I recognised this behaviour from a similar event at a different house at the end of 2004.
The next day I found that the caterpillar had removed its skin and had attached its new chrysalis form to the leaf. At this point the chrysalis was a pinkish colour and lay horizontal on the leaf.
Within a day the chrysalis had turned gold in colour – bright and metallic. I then cut the leaf before gluing it to a stick that I had suspended within the vivarium. This enabled the chrysalis to hang in a natural state until it was ready for the final stage of its metamorphosis.
On the 6th of April I returned from work at lunchtime to find that I had unfortunately missed the “birth” of the butterfly! It had emerged, had spread and dried its wings and was ready to fly. I took a couple of photographs before releasing the insect into a patch of wild vegetation next to the house. I believe the butterfly was a Mexican Fritillary. We seem to have a few species of similar-looking fritillaries in the area – I have counted a minimum of 12 different types of butterfly in just 4 square metres of the vegetation next to my house, including Swallow-tailed species.
In 2004 (and again in 2005) several caterpillars of Opsiphanes invirea, Owl butterfly, had marched up to my front door. I placed them in the vivarium and was able to do some time-lapse photography to capture the caterpillars suspending themselves to the roof of the glass tank, emerging in chrysalis form, and later as butterflies. Fascinating.