The Birth of a Monarch: The Movie

I leave Maine in two days, but monarchs are still being born. For the first time I managed to be present at the birth, so here is a short story complete with video.

This pale green gold-encrusted chrysalis appeared under the eaves of my house on August 25th.


On September 12th, it was noticeably darker, and becoming translucent.


This morning, September 15th, the adult butterfly was visible through the casing, and the head at the bottom was close to breaking through.


So I waited, and as soon as I turned my back, the opposite side of the chrysalis split.


The emergence began: here is a real-time video.



The butterfly hangs from the empty chrysalis.


First, it does tongue exercises:



Then it hangs there, tongue nicely furled, and begins to pump blood into its wing veins:


Twenty minutes after emergence, the wings were looking almost full-sized, but still floppy.


And then I went out for two hours, and on my return it was gone, flown off to head for Mexico for the winter..

PS If you think I was intruding on an intimate moment, consider the deliberately well-attended birth of a rather different monarch, the future Louis XIII of France, in 1601, so that there could be no shadow of a doubt as to whose son he was.


Nine years later, he succeeded his father Henri IV as King.



8 thoughts on “The Birth of a Monarch: The Movie”

  1. Beautiful videos, Moira! ‘It’s’ a Girl! People think it’s amusing that I know how to tell a ‘Girl from a Boy’ ….and want to know! It has been an enjoyable experience to captive raise & release ’46’ Monarchs 🥰, for the first time, a few times sharing with family & neighbors. I took a video of the fluid being pumped to the wings, many times watched the caterpillar molt & nibble its skin. I had a tray on the kitchen table with 5 containers and Milkweeds & lots of caterpillars. Learning as much as I could. Now I have a BST (Black Swallow Tail) on parsley, in the habitat, that I found as a first 1st in-star.


      1. The Boys have a smudge of black on each of their under wings, Girls have thicker, blacker veins, you can easily look up comparison photos on Safari. On BST Butterflies, the females have blue ‘smudges’, the males a series of yellow ‘smudges.’ Fun to know.


  2. Also: you can tell by looking at the top of a chrysalis, if the Monarch is going to be a Boy or a Girl, which is difficult to do, when the chrysalis is hanging….you’d need to ‘rehang.’


  3. Thanks for the lovely camera work! I suspect the monarch would have proceeded even if (s)he had the audience that attended the birth of another (future) Monarch.


  4. Beautiful – thank you. Watched it having just come back from one of the many UK Climate Emergency marches, and your Monarch Birth was wonderful to watch – a tiny reassurance.


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