Malachite Butterfly Notecard

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Malachite Butterfly

The sighting of a colorful butterfly is often the first confirmation that the summer season has arrived. These winged insects captivate us with their fragile beauty and explosive tapestry of colors.

The Malachite butterfly gets its name from its brilliant green colors, reminiscent of the stone of that same name. It is a native of the Southwestern United States and Mexico, where it progresses through its four stages of life. Selecting a suitable kind of plant, the female deposits her eggs. The eggs then hatch into larvae, more commonly known as caterpillars. The Malachite caterpillar's main objective is to eat voraciously to prepare for the pupa stage when it hibernates in a silken cocoon called a chrysalis. While enclosed in the chrysalis, the caterpillar metamorphoses into an imago, or adult butterfly. When the chrysalis edges become thin enough, it cracks and the chartreuse wings of a new Malachite butterfly emerge, unfolding and drying, to prepare for flight.

Many butterflies, such as the Malachite, spend their lives making migratory flights in search of food and mating partners. These migrations are similar to those of birds. However, for butterflies, typically the journey begins with the offspring of the adults that travelled the previous season. It is the next generation that migrates as the parents' life cycle ends. The migrations of butterflies are of particular aesthetic interest as the butterflies frequently travel in groups, creating painted landscapes and making a typical tree ornamental.

Whether we find them interesting for their fascinating habits and life cycle, or simply their delicate beauty, butterflies are natural jewels. One need only sit on a garden bench and see the painted, paper like wings of a butterfly dance through the air to recognize why these creatures are treasures to watch and appreciate.

artwork by Ann Stephenson (c) 1998 

text by Kit Kephart (c) 1998

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