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Thursday, 5 July 2018

A wild Swallowtail eclosing

Hello, it's me. You've probably forgotten me by now but I'll explain in another post. For now it's all about this Swallowtail who decided to pupate on my lavender. Going back a bit, about late April we had quite a few Swallowtails about laying eggs on the bronze fennel. There's a lot of fennel now as it self seeds with a vengeance. A good thing really, as about a month ago I counted upwards of twenty caterpillars and had to move some around onto stalks with plenty of foliage.

Moving forward a bit, I then found a caterpillar on a lavender plant round the side of the house. I knew it wasn't going to eat lavender (their host plants are carrot, wild carrot, fennel and dill) so it had to have chosen that place to pupate. Sure enough, the next morning there was a faint bit of silk spun around its head end holding it in place onto the stalk. This silk is called the hammock. 

I then went to England to see my Mum (had a great time with amazing weather, but if you are in England you know about the weather!). I really didn't expect to see a living chrysalis when I came back, as the time I studied this species' caterpillars in the wild, all out of four caterpillars or chrysalises died from disease, predators or parasitism, whereas my indoor raised ones all survived to become butterflies.

It took me a while to even find the chrysalis as it was so well camouflaged - it looks remarkably like a lavender leaf! I was so pleased to see it looking healthy. Then this morning I had a look and I could see the butterfly's wing patterns showing through the chrysalis and knew it wouldn't be long. I went outside again a few hours later and I'd just missed the eclosion by about 5 minutes! Its wings were still curled up like in the first photo. I didn't have my 'butterfly camera' to hand so by the time I'd fetched it the wings were looking straighter. Then the butterfly started unfurling and refurling its tongue (proboscis) which is in two parts when unfurled. I'm too lazy to google but I think when they first eclose they have to do something that makes those two parts stick together. Or something. You can google if it interests you! 


The following photos are taken with my Powershot SX50 which is ten times better for macros/close ups than my more expensive Lumix which took the photo above!


See the end of the proboscis in two parts?



Here's the chrysalis - the top end is where the butterfly comes out, and the dark bit at the other end is the liquid that the butterfly ejects when it ecloses. Again, I can't remember all the details about that so it's another thing you can google!


This afternoon I have also seen a Large Skipper, a large Fritillary of some sort, two Map butterflies and a Kingfisher, and there's an absolute explosion of various kinds of blue damselflies around the pond. A second brood of Blue Tits have fledged and their "pee pee pee" sound is loud but cute. All very pleasant indeed.



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