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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Raising Swallowtails - Part 4

So finally the time came for my last remaining caterpillar, Teeny Guy, to go into the big box for his pre-pupation phase of running around like a loony until he settled on a stick. I'm not going into all the details again as I've shown all this before in the previous posts. Suffice to say I put Teeny Guy in a box of his own, with his own stick, and rather than settling right at the bottom of the stick like the others did, he went right to the top! There's obviously something they don't like about the middle.

Determined not to miss out on the pupation this time, I carefully checked all the timings of the other three from the time they settled into their 'hammocks' until they became chrysalises. That worked out at somewhere between 28 and 46 hours which wasn't really great news, but I was going to try to stay awake and watch the final moult!

Thankfully the little darling, after spending a few hours with me on my desk, decided to do it at a sensible time. I'd just taken him back downstairs and put him on the windowsill when he started to wriggle. I wasn't sure if that was because he'd been moved or not, but then he wriggled again. Grabbing my camera, by the time I'd taken a couple of 'just in case' shots, then realising I needed to turn the flash on, I could already see something green appearing out of his head - yes it was really happening and he was starting to moult and that green thing was the chrysalis emerging!

After that it happened at what seemed like lightning speed; if anyone wonders why I didn't do a video or grab the Canon or sort out better lighting (or even get him out of his box for a better view), all I can say is, this happens too fast for any of that, and to be honest, the point and shoot was probably the best option camera wise!

So here are the pics - obviously I took loads. The first two are not good as I didn't have the flash on but this was when he first started to wriggle, and I can see that his skin is quite stretched at the top but already wrinkled looking down the bottom end. I've added the time on the captions so you can see how quickly it happened.



19.53:03 - Got the box on the kitchen table now!

19.53:12 This was the bit that interested me, how they slip their skin past that silk


19.53:44 With total ease, it seems!



19.55:01 Now begins much wriggling to get that moulted bit off



19.56:52 Then finally he flung it off, quite far compared with the other ones!

19.58:54 All over now and very newly formed chrysalis,
which continues to change a bit more (but which I didn't sit and watch!)

My poor OH missed it as he was putting the chickens and ducks to bed at this point but he can see the photos here, as I think he's become quite fond of my new family over the course of the month now!

Today, the chrysalis looking like the other ones do

As it is so late in September, Teeny Guy has been put in a box with a mesh top to protect him from birds into the duck shed for the winter (up on a log pile where the ducks can't get him). Hopefully he should do what a normal Swallowtail should do, pass the winter as a chrysalis then eclose in the spring. I'll be checking on him twice a day and then come March or early April, whenever the weather warms up I'll bring him back indoors and watch his eclosion then. As for the others, I feel it is far too late in their develoment to put them outdoors now as chrysalises, as the first ones should be eclosing any day now. I went into this a bit blindly not thinking about the time of year and that just because there are tons of other butterflies still around, it is a bit late in the season for Swallowtails to be turning into butterflies. Next year I will be more sensible about it.

Here's one of the last photos I took of him as a caterpillar, which I'll remember him by. I'm going to miss my caterpillars!

Unhappy face on his botty, or Ringo Starr,
as someone has already likened him to!

Hopefully there will be a Part 5 before next spring......I'll let you know!


  1. Totally fascinating photos MM, I'm glad you got to see it all happening in the end!

    Philippa x

  2. MM, what can I say; worthy of a pro.
    Found it really interesting, roll on next instalment.
    Thanks xx


  3. Thanks Lib and Philippa. I'm looking forward to the next installment too and hope they do it sooner rather than later, and hopefully when it is not pouring with rain!

  4. Didn't realise it happened that way. Good stuff Mandy.

    1. Hi Nick and thanks. I don't think I knew exactly what went on before either, which is why it is all the more fascinating for me!