Photographer fulfils half-a-century old dream to document magical metamorphosis moments of a monarch caterpillar turning into a butterfly

A photographer has fulfilled his half a century-old dream to document the magical metamorphosis of a monarch caterpillar turning into a butterfly.

Joe Rossi, 65, from Blackduck, Minnesota, USA, captured the striped yellow, black and white bug forming into its leaflike pod before breaking free in an altered richly-coloured form.


At school aged 10, Joe had taken the chrysalis of a monarch caterpillar into school to show classmates its emergence post-transformation.

But despite ‘intently watching,’ the butterfly came out while the students were out at a gym class, much to Joe’s disappointment, having helped it to grow and seen every other stage.

Now, 55 years on, he was determined not to miss out on the monarch hatching and flapping its wings for the first time again.


So Joe waited over five hours to capture the male monarch emerging and two hours later, it took flight before his eyes.

The former newspaper photojournalist said: “I like the images because they give the viewer insight to another aspect of nature.

“We see butterflies in the wild, flying and feeding on the nectar of flowers but how often have we seen butterflies emerging from their chrysalis in the wild.

“I checked the chrysalis every couple of days for the first nine days, then checked it daily after that.

“When the chrysalis got dark, which indicated that it’s nearing the time for the monarch butterfly to emerge, I stayed on site, waiting 5.5 hours for that to happen.

“What stood out to me was once the monarch started to emerge from its chrysalis how quick the process was.

“From beginning to emerge to being totally out of the chrysalis the process was completed by the monarch butterfly in approximately 50 seconds.

“Fortunately, I was well fortified with coffee and was able to get the shots.

“This is a process piece so I feel that all the images combine equally to tell the story.


“However, one image I do find interesting is of the newly hatched monarch butterfly resting next to its chrysalis.

“It’s amazing that so much butterfly could emerge from such a small package.

“For the most part I felt relieved and gratified that I finally got to see a monarch hatch.

“There are a lot of things in life that we wish could experience but for one reason or another we miss out on the opportunity.

“I am grateful that, after 55 years, I was afforded a second chance.”

To capture these photographs, Joe allowed a patch of milkweed – the sole food source for monarch caterpillars – to grow near his home.


It took 14-days for the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly inside the chrysalis.

Joe said: “The chrysalis for the monarch butterfly is a vibrant green until it nears the point at which the monarch butterfly is ready to hatch out.

“The green chrysalis gets darker and darker until it is a transparent black.

“Once out of the chrysalis it takes several hours for the monarch butterfly’s wings to dry and harden and it can take flight.”

Joe recalls the satisfaction of being able to witness and photograph the monarch’s emergence over half a century on.

He added: “In documenting this series there was a bit of redemption involved.

“When I was ten years old I had a monarch caterpillar that I had captured and fed milkweed leaves until it formed its chrysalis.

“As it drew close to the time the butterfly to hatch out I brought the chrysalis to school to share the event with my classmates.

“We watched the chrysalis intently to make sure we would see the monarch butterfly emerge.

“Nothing was happening and it finally reached the time for the class to go to the gym.

“As fate would have it when we returned to our classroom we were greeting by a newly emerged monarch butterfly.


“Now, 55 years later, I once again had the opportunity to observe a monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. I was determined not to miss out this time.”

Joe wrote book Minnesota’s hidden Alphabet for Minnesota Historical Society Press.

He added: “I like to go out into nature and explore, sharing with friends what I have seen and discovered.

“There are wonders of nature all around us, from very rural to very urban areas.

“We need to slow down and look, learn and discover the hidden beauty of nature that is all around us.”