Monarch Butterflies

These photographs and time-lapse videos are not taken in Marin, but in So. CA by my friend, Ed Kennedy.

Chrysalis – photo by Ed Kennedy
Chrysalis has turned dark and translucent – Photo by Ed Kennedy



Set up for filming time-lapse


Filming and waiting
The camera

From Ed:  “One day I read an article about the plight of the monarch butterfly and how the species is suffering. I learned that they primarily eat milkweed plants (their favorite is Asclepias Curassavica-southern milkweed / red and yellow flowers) and if I planted them around my house in Los Angeles I could help the butterflies and beautify my garden at the same time. I did a bit of studying about them, and I found,  where I could buy baby plants and get free seeds from them. Later I discovered that my local nurseries carry milkweed, so now when I need extra plants I can get them locally. Milkweed produces a lot of seeds, and can be invasive. But it does very well in a flowerpot.

When I first started I didn’t realize that a monarch caterpillar can eat 20 leaves before it is ready to turn into a butterfly. If you have a few caterpillars on one plant the plant will be devoured before you know it. I found myself buying extra plants just to keep the little babies’ bellies full. I decided to build a net enclosure around one of the plants, and pretty soon I had a couple of cocoons inside. When the chrysalis is getting ready to release the butterfly, it turns very dark and somewhat translucent. This can last a few days, so timing the filming of the emergence is tricky. The first video I made was of a butterfly emerging in 2016. It was a time lapse film, but the time period was too long and the film came out pretty choppy. After a while, I learned how to use the camera, and got the two best films so far early in 2017. One is of a caterpillar turning into a chrysalis, and the second is another chrysalis showing the emerging butterfly. Both of these time lapse films are at a frame rate of 10 seconds. Capturing these images required me to set up the camera and leave it for hours since I didn’t know when the little babies were going to decide to do their thing.”