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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Raising Swallowtails - Part 5

And so it starts all over again! To recap from last year - whilst I failed to get to the stage of an actual butterfly eclosing from my four caterpillars as it was rather late in the season, I documented with many photos all the various stages of growth, moults and pupation of my four caterpillars. In the 4th episode I was finally there at the right time to witness the final moult revealing the chrysalis. All very exciting stuff but as the chrysalises very sensibly decided that it was too late in the year, they would wait until this year to eclose at a more suitable time.

Last year's posts here - this is Part 4 where I photographed the pupation. If you look on the right sidebar 'Blog Archive' near the top when you are on this page, you will see the previous posts, parts 1 - 3 in Sept 2012.

So they overwintered in a box in the duck shed and whilst I have seen the butterflies as early as April here in good weather, our spring was cold and miserable and so when the time came to go on holiday in early May, I was faced with the dilemma of what to do. I had no option but to put all the chrysalises on their respective sticks out in the garden in case they eclosed whilst we were away. I hid them at the base of my currant bushes thinking that would give them some cover. Upon our return however I found only one solitary chrysalis left intact - I imagine birds had taken the others as there were no signs of them at all. So in it came into its box again and we waited and waited. One day at the end of May we noticed that the chrysalis had changed colour from green to brown and it appeared to have started to split open.

Unfortunately, nothing more happened. After a month or so I realised that nothing was going to happen.

Well it just so happened that I needed the box as last week I found a solitary caterpillar on a dill plant in my veg patch. This one was already a good size but the opportunity was too good to miss, so inside it came! I decided to put the unviable chrysalis outside but then I couldn't resist having a closer look at it, as I could see that the chrysalis shell was very loose and papery, so in the interests of science I opened it up to have a look. Inside was a perfectly formed butterfly that somehow had just died. I am glad that I have done this as I don't think I would have seen exactly just how the butterfly fits inside the chrysalis if I had watched the eclosion. I took photos of course.

You can see how the wings fit in inside the chrysalis here.

This shows how the legs fit, and the antennae which if you can view larger,
are tucked in along with the legs.

View from the back - looking rather furry.

I think this is the mummy of the caterpillar I found in the veg patch. It's only the second one I have seen here this year and I had totally the wrong lens on my DSLR at the time and couldn't get close or zoom in. She flitted about various wrong host plants whilst I was willing her to find the dill.... here she is checking out the parsley that has gone to seed. She did find the dill but only seemed to hover there for seconds, but maybe she did lay an egg!

A few days later I found three more on my Bronze Fennel out the front of the house, so brought them in too! I took a few photos of the first one but after that - well, I have so many photos from my previous posts on the subject it seemed a bit silly to take more.

Suffice to say there were no more moults as they were all a good size and the first one had pupated by last Friday, the 2nd one yesterday and I have two more who will be chrysalises by this evening sometime.  And did they pick either of the two nice sticks I put in there - oh no, the first one is on the plastic mesh 'roof' (lets air in and keeps them in) right in the corner, the next one is in the opposite corner, the next one is also there but squeezed in between that one and the corner - I mean about 1cm/ 0.5" away from the wall of the box, and the 4th one, well it did choose a stick, bless it, but about 1" off the floor. Oh well, one has to assume they know what they are doing..... :-)

And now comes the waiting game..... but this time the weather is right, it is early enough in the year and I have four chances of witnessing the eclosion and photographing it. 

I will, of course, keep you posted!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to you and another G plusser, I now know that Chrysalis over-winter. I had no idea! Your photos are fantastic and although it was sad to lose a butterfly it was a treat to see how it looks inside! Good luck with the rest. I'll be watching :-)

    I did have plans to do a blog post while away but I'm spending all my time shooting and what little time I have has been spent organizing and keywording my images. This will be the first time all my images will be ready to be transferred to my main database when I get home! I'm very pleased with myself :-)

    In the meantime, check my Instagram if you haven't already!