Daily Archives: May 6, 2013

variation on a remodel

monarch butterfly top sideI spend my days designing new spaces and collaborating with inspiring people but here’s a transformation I didn’t have much to do with – but enjoyed just as much.  All I did was give this guy a free flight from NY-SF and a 3,000mi head-start on his brothers and sisters.  Here we have a monarch butterfly, common throughout North America and my parents’ yard in upstate NY. My inner science geek likes to watch the several-week process from caterpillar to butterfly, which goes like this: monarch caterpillarThis is the milk-weed chomping caterpillar that starts out as a dot-sized egg. Milkweed is poisonous / harmful to most animals so the butterfly and caterpillar have no (few?) predators.  It takes about 2 weeks from egg to this stage. Looks like he’s hanging out on my cutting board… monarch chrysalisIn a blink-0f-an-eye moment, the caterpillar sheds its skin and morphs into this creepy yet beautiful green chrysalis with gold trim. This is sci-fi in real life! It resides here for another 2 weeks or so, rearranging itself. Since ours was living in a jar and had no branches/leaves to hang from, we provided popsicle sticks. monarch chrysalis darkToward the end of its dormancy you can start to see the wing colors through the shell.  hatching monarchWhen it first pops out it’s all body and barely any wing, so it pumps the wings up as it hangs.  This happened on the day of AIA SF annual Home Tours and we caught it hatching just in time. monarch hatchingIt hangs like this for a few hours until its wings seem stable enough to start flapping.  Then of course I reach in and grab it for a photo-shoot. monarch butterfly bottom sideIt normally keeps the wings closed so the pale underside is visible, and I took about 40 photos of the second it opened its wings, but most were blurry. The pale colors blend in with the trees that it winters in. monarch walkingIt’s friendly enough to crawl around and hang out until it’s ready to fly away : ) monarch maleFinally a clear shot! Here he is seconds before takeoff, into the San Francisco September sun. Monarchs from east of the Rockies fly south for the winter to Mexico, while those from west of the Rockies fly to Pacific Grove, CA (“Butterfly Town, USA”) and areas nearby.  Knowing this, my mother and I worried that this eastern guy would fly southwest from SF out into the Pacific, thinking it was headed for Mexico! But I asked a butterfly expert (fellow geek) at the Pacific Grove preserve who confirmed that in fact the butterflies’ radar just resets and it will head to the closest spot.  I’ve read that their numbers have diminished from disappearing forests to over-winter in…sad.  I hope he made it, I hope he mated, and I hope they remain part of our gardens forever. This butterfly might just inspire my next roof design…

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