"I've watched you now a full half-hour,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.
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)
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)