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Saturday, 28 June 2014

Raising Swallowtails - Part 10 - The Eclosion!

With 13 chrysalises I hoped I'd get to witness at least one eclosion, but after having missed the first two by maybe just a minute or two it was time to do something about it. I knew the third one was imminent as it was already showing signs of wing colouration through the chrysalis skin and luckily it was one of the few on a stick, so I could take it out of the box. The rest are irritatingly hanging off the mesh lid or on the sides of the plastic box.

So with thanks to my friend Marianne who told me to just set up a camera and leave the video running, but also set a timer to remind me every 15 mins or so to check on it, I duly set to work. Luckily my OH had a mini tripod that was perfect for my old Cybershot. Out came the blue tack to fix the stick in place - as I needed light for the video I stuck the top of the stick to the window frame. Then the background looked naff so my OH got some kitchen paper and we blue tacked that in place to make this makeshift studio!

My studio.

After running two batteries flat that afternoon/early evening I was pretty sure it would be eclosing around 8am the following day as that seems a popular time with these butterflies. So I set the video but also decided to sit in the kitchen waiting and watching.... when suddenly I noticed the chrysalis had just started to split. I grabbed my camera and took photos too (you'll notice my flash going off in the video but that can't be helped).

So here it is, it doesn't last long and you can view it full screen with reasonable quality, but there isn't a medium size option, unfortunately. (P.S. I have reloaded this with added music and taken out the original sound track of me stomping about the kitchen and the noise of my flash going off!)

Aaargh the darn thing climbed straight upwards and up the window frame! I had imagined it would dangle from the chrysalis for a while which is why I set the camera in a position that would show that. Well I'll know next time. :-)

Note the browny-red liquid that the butterfly excreted as it was eclosing. This is pupal fluid although last year's ones managed to do it outside of the chrysalis; this year's are obviously tidy beasts.

So here are the photos I took at the same time as the videos, and would you believe that just after the final shot shown here the batteries died in my Speedlite! But it didn't matter as I've plenty of photos from that stage onwards from the other butterflies.

Climbing up the window frame.

This was the only salvageable bit of the rest of the video which started with the eclosion - a few seconds where it sticks its proboscis out and has a good old wiggle. I had grabbed the camera, tripod and all, to try to film some more but managed to get most of it out of focus!

Here are a few photos from the first Swallowtail to eclose that I must have just missed by a minute or two, judging by how crumpled up its wings are. These start to smooth out very quickly after eclosion.

Freshly eclosed and climbing up the stick towards the chrysalis that featured in my video.

Hugging its sibling!

I left this one in the box for a while, usually I put them on a pot plant but it seemed
perfectly happy hanging off the chrysalises and getting its wings in working order!

Here's a not very good video of one of them flapping its wings to pump 'blood' (called hemolymph) into them and also exercising its proboscis a bit. 

My African Violet makes a handy place for them to hang from
until they are ready to go outside.

You get nicer photo ops with flowers in the background.

And here's one from last year when it was released. I already took dozens of photos of them last year when I set them free. My first two this year flew off straight away and the third sat on a flower for a while.

It's a really wonderful feeling releasing these beautiful creatures that you've raised yourself.

Well there you have it, over these 10 posts I think I have pretty much covered everything involved in the whole life cycle of these butterflies, but if there's an opportunity to video a pupation.... well I'll see how I go with the next batch!

The previous post showing photos of a pupation are here in Part 9, if you missed it.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Raising Swallowtails - Part 9

This is already turning out to be a good year for Swallowtails. I've seen a fair few already and more eggs have been laid and I'm coming across tiny caterpillars on both bronze fennel and the dill in my veg patch. I always grew dill specifically for the Swallowtails anyway. I've also found 5 final instar caterpillars on various fennel plants so great that some of them got that far out in the wild, as so many of the eggs and young caterpillars disappear, no doubt to predators. 

I now have another 15 babies indoors, now these I do not plan to keep all the way through to butterfly, but as soon as they are large enough to handle I shall release some of them outside and keep just a few indoors to raise again. The reason I collected so many is that I found many tiny caterpillars on the lower down, dying yellow fronds of the fennel and they were too small to transfer further up the plant. Also, there seems to be some strange disease of dill this year, some plants are healthy and others have some strange thing where the leaves turn red and then the plant flops. So I've been saving tiny caterpillars from these plants too.

Little caterpillar about Instar 3 on dill in my veg patch.

Saw this really tatty butterfly the other day - wondering whether it is the same tatty one I posted before, but now she's lost nearly all of her hind wings and some of the fore wings too which are practically see through. Yet she still laid an egg! 

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon).
She wasn't going to survive much longer by the looks of things.

I got to witness a moult all the way through the process this time. I only took one photo because it was late and you can see in it the darkened head capsule which looks like it has already dislodged. What was interesting to watch was the amount of wriggling, squeezing and pushing that went on for about half an hour before the moult. I didn't photograph it because it was about 11pm, and we were watching something on the TV, so I took the bowl into the living room with me plus magnifying glass and half watched telly and half watched my caterpillar!

Just before a moult into the final instar.

The main reason for this Part 9 is because I also witnessed a pupation. I'd seen and photographed one two years ago, but this time was a little different and needed a bit of human intervention.....

I noticed this was about to happen because it suddenly started to move and wiggle.

And then the skin popped open and the chrysalis started to appear.

But note the cradle/cremaster which is holding it up -
it's not where it is supposed to be!

Oops! Yes it fell out!

This is the kitchen paper lining the box and I was having kittens
wondering if it could still manage to pupate properly.

I needn't have worried as it didn't seem to have any problems.

Nearly got rid of that skin....

Just one more wriggle and squeeze.....

And finally free. Usually when hanging, they flick this skin off. I gave it a helping hand.

Now here I learned something new, having never (obviously) handled a newly formed chrysalis I had no idea they would be so soft and squidgy! I then had to try to get it back into its cradle! That was easier said than done but I (with help from my OH)  managed to get the cradle over several of those ridges, but because it had chosen to pupate on the plastic mesh lid of the box it was really hard and I had to keep checking I was putting it back the right side up! It's now dangling down a little too far as I couldn't get it into the correct position, and is a bit wobbly when I move the box, so I'm going to get some thread and tie it up so it's in a better position for eclosing.

And the reason I know it doesn't want to be dangling down...... because there will be a Final Chapter after all...... as I have finally witnessed an eclosion and know what happens when the butterfly emerges! 

You'll have to wait a bit because I've got some video footage that needs editing, not by me as I don't have suitable software, but with help from my dear OH who is used to editing videos. :-)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Another brood of Moorhens and a bit of catching up!

This is our tenth year here and the first time the moorhens (not the same couple all this time!) have had two broods in one year. These ones were born around 11th June and the first brood are looking like drab brown versions of the adults now; it really doesn't take them long to grow up. But whilst they remain fluffy little pom-poms we enjoy watching them - and this time the parents have not kept them so hidden away, so it's been great.

Mum! Mum!

Although it could be Dad, as both parents care for the young.

One day I heard some interesting squeaky noises in my woodland and followed two birds from conifer to conifer, not quite being sure what I was seeing, but hoping they might be Goldcrests or Firecrests, when one suddenly stopped for a moment out in the sunshine!

Newly fledged Goldcrest still with the wide mouth look.

Going back to late May, I found this cute bee which looked like it was sleeping or resting on a Sweet William flower. However the next day it was dead (2nd photo), so it had actually been dying. I know that's normal, but it seems sad to witness it.

It was nice spot for its final resting place.

This was identified for me as a Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes).
I hadn't recognised it because its foot isn't hairy any more,
but it still has some long hairs on the middle leg.

And then there was this cute small bee measuring about 10-11mm which I saved from drowning in a watering can. It was sopping and had a good walk over my hands before I put it on my jeans, where it stayed whilst I came indoors, took a photo with my other camera, then pottered about doing things. And then it went and died on my jeans! :-(

Gorgeous bee with beautiful eyes, the ID is Osmia sp. but could be one of several species.
A facebook insect group I use is very handy for asking for ID.

Here is the Osmia sp. bee on my jeans.

And now some fluttery things....

Found this on the handle of my watering can -
I think it's a Dark Arches (Apamea monoglypha) moth.

Hummingbird Hawkmoths (Macroglossum stellatarum) have been around for a while now.

But I never see them resting! Blow me down - this one was just sitting on my new filter bed!

I tried.... the photo op was too good to resist, but it flew off a nano second after this shot!

A Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) in amongst white Valerian.

This is a handsome Longhorn Beetle (Agapantha sp.) found on Phacelia.

And now I'll leave you with some floral photos I took, most taken back in May which I never got round to posting!

Aquilegia, one of the few Nora Barlows that I grew from seed which actually came to anything.

Bearded Iris.

Another kind of Iris which I've forgotten what it is!

Just an excuse to bung in a Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) butterfly,
because it was posing on one of my Weigelas
which I grew from a cutting from a friend's garden.

Honeysuckle looking good.

Honeysuckle after rain. Forgotten what rain is now!

Clematis 'The President' on one side of the arch.

And the thornless rose 'Zephirine Drouhin' which is heavily scented on the other side.

And both together. The clematis has gone over now but the rose
is a repeat flowering one so still covered in flowers.

Scented yellow Day Lily whose name I've completely forgotten! I blame the heat.

A view of the veggie patch with lots of flowers around it - there are lots of flowers in it too.
I'll do a veg patch update at the end of the month.

Sweet Williams, although this clump have gone sad
and droopy now because it's so dry!

Next update will be back to Swallowtails again as I have more to share.... but finding time to sort through photos and blog is tough right now as there's a lot to do outside! Right, off out to do the watering. :-)


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Honey Bee on Sedum

Honey Bee on Sedum

Dewy Web

Dewy Web



Broad Bodied Chaser

Broad Bodied Chaser

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

Cats past and present

Cats past and present

Cats Past and Present

Cats Past and Present

Holly Blue Butterfly

Holly Blue Butterfly

Swallowtail Butterfly

Swallowtail Butterfly







Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Swallowtail Caterpillar

Swallowtail Caterpillar