Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And So It Begins Again....

Remnants of last season.... beginning again. Black swallowtail butterfly. Posted by Picasa

"I've watched you now a full half-hour,
Self-poised upon that yellow flower;
And, little Butterfly! indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless!---not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!"
~ William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)
Last October, six black swallowtail caterpillars, the last of the season... wove their chrysalides in the small aquarium sitting in my sunroom. Five days past.. then ten... then a full month... and it became obvious that these six were not going to emerge until spring. Days and weeks and months passed; the sticks with five brown and one green chrysalides simply ..."were". Two attached to the mesh cover and the rest to small twigs. A couple of the twigs had to be taped to larger sticks to fit into the empty flower pot in the aquarium. Those black swallowtail that overwinter usually start emerging in mid to late April, but one adventuresome fellow suddenly emerged in early April... really too soon, especially this year. The day was cold and wet and I kept him inside as long as possible before placing him in the drying mesh lid we used last year. An hour or so later, he was gone... I fear for his survival as there were so few flowers blooming and it was really cold. So, for the other five... I covered the aquarium with a dark towel for a few weeks... the length of the day, the light is the trigger for their emergence not the temperature.

Three more butterflies have successfully emerged, inflated their wings, practiced their wing style and spent time resting in the welcome mesh outpost. They have long since gone... but I did notice the tiny eggs on the fennel and several small caterpillars in various stages already eating the now abundant fine foliage. Sadly, the fifth butterfly was deformed and couldn't inflate the wings..... it died quickly. So now there is one left. It still has several days to emerge and still be within the normal time.... we will see. Soon, we will be breaking out the incubators for both the black swallowtail and the monarchs.

And an update on the monarch caterpillars already on the milkweed.... as last year, the first crop of caterpillars mysteriously disappeared. Only one managed to grow fairly large and I was thinking of bringing it inside for the last couple of days before transformation... but this morning it was dead. I do hope the parasite that invaded them at the end of the season is not still around. As yet, I have not seen any adults.

(end of post)
Nature's Notes


Kenju said...

That's a mystery you'll probably never be able to solve. The photo above is wonderful .

Ginny Hartzler said...

Beautiful, beautiful pictures!!! It seems so early for butterflies, we haven't seen any around here yet. But I'm glad you are having such good luck now. I have some pictures of a black one that is driving me nuts, it's black and has a lot of irridescent turqioise on the bottom of the wings, but just doesn't have all the markings of yours.

Sandra Hangey said...

so glad you posted this today, we have giant swallowtails and the smaller swallowtails, but one just like this showed up twice in the past week and hubby and I were trying to decide what it is. so this one is a third swallowtail. we have a giant one that looks to be about 4 or 5 inches, he is the biggest i have ever seen. so far we have had 6 different species show up. no caterpillars in sight but they must be somewhere.

Imaginography said...

So beautiful and fragile. I do hope they made it so they can lay their own eggs. Butterflies in the UK are under threat on the whole with many species being on the endangered list. When I do my garden I want to include some butterfly and bee friendly plants :)

Credman said...

I've seen a few butterflies but no chrysalises. 

Ramblingwoods said...

I love how you are able to take these guys in and watch them. I hope I get a chance to do that. I am concerned about our very cold and wet weather for nesting birds and insects..we have been in the 40's only....Michelle