A Glimpse of the Past

I was walking down the path that leads from Catch the Wind to Explore the Wild on the far side of that half mile exhibit loop. I glanced to my right and noticed a small tan-colored object dangling from a twig on a hornbeam, or ironwood, tree on the right side of the path, chrysalis. The tree is very close to a patch of partridge pea, which is host to cloudless sulphur butterflies in late summer and fall.

A cloudless sulphur transformed from caterpillar to butterfly within this now empty chrysalis (Dec, 2016).

I saw many caterpillars on the legume during fall. As is usual when caterpillars are present, I conduct casual searches for chrysalids in the vicinity, as I pass by the location frequently. Once, maybe twice, in the past nine years, I’ve found a chrysalis and patiently watched as a butterfly emerged from that chrysalis. This too was a cloudless sulphur chrysalis, but the butterfly had emerged weeks before I discovered it.

We’ve already had a hard freeze or two, but several weeks ago during unseasonably warm weather I saw a fresh cloudless sulphur flying up and down the path in this location. Could this chrysalis be the source of that butterfly?

It’s difficult to say whether or not the butterfly that I saw came from this empty chrysalis. The butterfly I spied was fresh, crisp and clean. It didn’t appear to have any wear on its wings. If it didn’t emerge from the chrysalis I was looking at, it had done so from another chrysalis close by.

Newly emerged cloudless sulphur butterfly (Sept, 2010).

There’s a million stories out there waiting to be discovered. Keep your eyes open as you navigate the Museum’s trails, you may stumble onto one yourself.

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