Pound for pound – or maybe fraction of an ounce for fraction of announce – they’re some of the more amazing creatures in the world.
How not to be impressed with the Monarch butterfly?
They never get bigger than about 4 inches wide – their wingspan barely covers the top of a teacup – and they live only six to eight months. But in that time they’ll migrate from places like western Pennsylvania to wintering grounds in Mexico, up to 3,000 miles away.
What a feat that is.
They’re an insect in trouble, though. Populations are in decline east of the Rocky Mountains for reasons that aren’t altogether clear, though scientists say loss of habitat here – primarily milkweed, the species’ prime food source — and south of the border may be an issue.
That makes Tom Milcic’s experience all the more wonderful.
A resident of Adams Township in Butler County, he was weeding on Aug. 18 when he noticed a caterpillar hanging from a leaf.
“It was a pretty neat looking caterpillar and I thought to myself that it might be getting ready to become a butterfly,” he said.
He went back to look a day later and it was already in a chrysalis, or cocoon. He watched it for the next two weeks.
“The evening before it emerged I could start to see the butterfly in the chrysalis. I always remember seeing the time-lapse photos from school when I was a kid and thought how I’d love to see that in person. I was pretty excited to have a chance to finally do that,” he said.
He kept an eye on it and when it started to emerge at 9 a.m. on Sept. 2, he was ready. He captured the following photos.
“A little over two hours later it took its first flight and then flew away,” he said.
It’s pretty dramatic stuff, one of the many little, yet fascinating, wonders of nature.
Here’s a look at Tom’s photos.