You may recall the cute, wide-eyed (fake ones those!), chubby, bright green Fifth Instar Caterpillar of the Common Mormon butterfly (Papilio polytes) whom I introduced in my post of August 11 titled ‘For Your Eyes Only!’. Well, I have been keeping an eye on it ever since, and as expected, after a couple of days, it began metamorphosing into a chrysalis.
Externally, the appearance progressed swiftly from a bright green (see picture: Day 4) to a yellow-tinged black (see picture: Day 8) reflecting the transformation taking place inside, from a pudgy crawling caterpillar into a delicate winged wonder. Inside, the changes were much more dramatic. The caterpillar’s body was digested by its own enzymes and the nutrient-rich fluids thus formed assisted a special group of cells called the imaginal discs to form the various organs and body parts of the butterfly through cell division.
And on Day 9, by the time I got to its secret lair with camera lens extended and at the ready, the impatient butterfly had already emerged from the chrysalis! There it hung from a twig a little distance away from the empty chrysalis, pumping fluid through its wings to expand and strengthen them. Just then, as I watched, a strong gust of wind dislodged the butterfly from its perch and it tumbled down to the ground and on an anthill of all places. Seeing it dragging itself awkwardly, its wet wings still dysfunctional, I instinctively offered it my palm and it quickly clambered up my fingers – away from the deadly red ants. I then placed my palm on a sturdy and dense branch of the plant and the butterfly crawled away into the leaves, continuing with its efforts at gaining the ability to fly. I hung around for another half an hour or so till it abruptly, with a few flaps of its now sturdy wings, fluttered away into the breeze.
I stared after it in silent amazement, grateful for the way nature had touched me those last few days…
– Narendra Nayak © 2018