Saturday, October 22, 2011

Birth of a Birdwing Butterfly

Hey ya'll

Newly emerged Golden birdwing butterfly (Troides amphrysus ruficollis)
I'm sure most of you will recall the pupae I have acquired from a few posts back and how excited I was at obtaining the pupa of one of the birdwing butterflies (some of the largest and most majestic butterflies in the world!) ... well, just yesterday I was blessed with the immense pleasure of having been able to witness the emergence of one first hand, with my very own eyes. It wasn't my pupa, to be honest, but the one I had given to Ray (upon his request) but when he told me that it had begun to turn "gray" and that the shell was turninelyg "transparent" on the top I just knew the butterfly was going to emerge. Incessantly I begged, and pleaded, and whined.

"Pleeeeaaaase!!!! Pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaase can I have it?" He was not convinced.

"I will be able to wake up extremely early, set my camera up on a tripod... film the whole thing!!!" I argued my case.

"I will wake up, I swear!!! I'll wake up at 7am. Not too early, you know... just, like I always do with all of my butterflies." I liked being there, being the first thing they saw when the entered the new world.

"Would you wake up early to film the entire thing for me? ... what if you have to go off for class halfway? I can't miss it! I know I have three more at home but there's no guarantee that I will be present at their emergence... I need to film this one...Pleeeeeeassse, please please please please please, Pleeeeeeeeeasssse!!!"
eventually, he relented (I can be quite a mosquito when I choose to be) and despite the horrid weather, consented to go up to the eleventh floor of his apartment to fetch the incubating creature for me.

"Make sure you film the whole thing!"
he said. And so off I went, at 10.00pm at night, a graying, transparent pupa cupped protectively within my hands.

I set the camera up and went to bed promptly that night. Seven o' clock in the morning, I told myself. Seven, I will get up and I will film the entire thing and when my alarm jolted me out of my slumber - I was having a particularly pleasant dream involving butterflies as large as aeroplanes - I wasted almost no time in emerging from my own chrysalis of sheets and comforters to wait it out by the now fully transparent butterfly chrysalis. It's always a most taxing experience, the waiting, and when the butterfly still objected to the idea of waking up so early in the morning, I finally let myself grab a towel and shuffle my way to the showers for a quick bath. Turns out, the words "quick" and "bath" do not fit properly into the same sentence with me and by the time I had finished my rendition of Can't Fight This Feeling and Somewhere Only We Know (rather hoarse and off-key, I'm afraid, as I have had the misfortune of loosing my voice this past week) I realized that it had been almost an hour. OH NO!!! THE BUTTERFLY! And I unceremoniously reached for my towel, barely tied it around my waist and sprinted all the way back to the room. As fate would have it, the butterfly chose that exact moment for its debut into a new life and whether by imagination or not, a loud and distinctive cracking sound told me that it was ready.

Fwoooooosh I went, the towel fell, but I had made it just in time. The butterfly was starting to pop the lid of its chrysalis and I had made it just in time to film the entire process. Not even bothering to dress up, I pulled on a pair of shorts and settled down to watch the slow and yet beautiful process. I also snapped a few photographs while I was at it.

Belatedly I realized that I was still largely under-dressed during all of this (and that my reflection was visible from the glass-sides of my chrysalis cage) but upon checking the video, discovered to my relief that exposure was decent, if not entirely minimal and I won't even bother pointing things out to you, I think, because it makes it even harder to spot. At any rate, I daresay I had shorts on. The video will be uploaded later, I think, as a separate post when I'm done figuring out how I can possibly get about editing it now that my Windows Live Movie Maker has been deleted during the laptop reformat... bummer.

Ignore the background mess, please, and also my lop-sided eyes
ps. In case some of you were wondering what we did with the butterfly, well Ray and I just released it near a forest where I've seen the other birdwing butterfly species (Troides helena) before. Although there are no females so it may not be able to breed, here's to hoping that it will live out the three weeks of its life with much pomp and majesty. 

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