|Here I have a Stage 5 (right) and a Stage 6.|
I was lucky enough to notice one of the caterpillars in the middle of a moult, so grabbed my camera!
|Turning into Stage 6 (Instar 4).|
|Here you can clearly see the head capsule still on the head, |
which is always very pale just after a moult.
|Still wearing the head capsule.|
|Now the capsule is just attached by a bit of web and the moulted skin at the side.|
|From the outside of the bowl you can see that the caterpillar has attached itself to it |
with fine webbing before having a moult.
|Here it is a while later showing how it has lost the 'bird dropping' white marking now.|
|And a view of the rear end.|
Stage 8 or rather Instar 5 which is the final stage before pupating. During this period the caterpillar grows enormously. Obviously by this time they are a lot easier to photograph and on June 2nd my three largest ones all moulted so kept me busy watching and shooting!
|June 2nd - this is another one after a moult and the facial markings are just visible now.|
|A few minutes later and the colouring is even darker, and the head capsule is still next to it.|
|4th June and much bigger and showing their beautiful colours now.|
|Photo shoot time.|
|Excuse me would you stop eating just for a moment as I'm trying to measure you!|
|One thing I've learned about caterpillars, they either eat and poo like crazy, |
or do absolutely nothing. Sometimes they don't move for 2 days before a moult.
Finally, pupation draws near when they go on walkabout. Just before the pupation process the caterpillar does what I call 'watery frass', a liquid poo presumably purging themselves before the long period of metamorphosis. They then feel the need to wander off because they are looking for a place to pupate in. At this point I have to get them into the big box with a mesh lid. There are now three in there (I found the second one on my magnifying glass, just as I was picking it up to look at the first one!!), two of which are firmly attached to a stick with their silk cradle and will probably be chrysalises by this evening.
|Up the wall is a lot less dangerous than across the floor, which I've seen before!|
I think I saw their mummy out of the kitchen window yesterday whilst I was making strawberry jam and had to nip out to take a few pics. There's no way to tell if it is male or female and it was very tatty and at the end of its days, however there are a lot of fresh eggs suddenly on the bronze fennel!
|Very tatty Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) with a good amount of hindwing missing.|
|It was just clinging to the Valerian.|
|Though when I gingerly put a finger up to it, it flew away as it wasn't having any of that!|
OK the rest of what happens is already documented in these posts so I don't need to keep taking photos.... or do I? :-)
Links to all the previous posts re. raising Swallowtails:
Part 1 - 2012 - introducing my caterpillars and learning a lot about them.
Part 2 - the start of the pupation process.
Part 3 - lots of chrysalises forming but I never actually witnessed one.
Part 4 - the one in which I finally managed to see and photograph a caterpillar turning into a chrysalis.
Part 5 - 2013 - the following spring and what happened to my overwintered chrysalises.
Part 6 - finding more caterpillars and getting through to the butterfly stage.
Part 7 - 2014 - from egg to caterpillar (the most recent post).
I have one more thing to witness .... an eclosion! If you read Part 6 you'll know how long I spent watching and how many frustrations I had last year. But this time I do have my OH's new trail camera which is one of those infrared and movement detector thingies so I can put it in the box and set it to take photos at intervals, or at movement, or photo plus 10 second video etc etc. Well I can't, as I haven't a clue how it works, but he can. No idea of quality but anything is better than nothing!
By the way I should mention that 'cats' are incredibly fun and rewarding pets but possibly more time consuming than the feline variety!