Monday, May 5, 2014

The Accidental Lepidopterist: First Brood of Black Swallowtails

On May 2nd we did some volunteer work at the museum cleaning up a patch of overgrown mint on the landscape gardens around the butterfly house. Later on we found some black swallowtail caterpillars munching on some fennel. We brought home six cats to nurse into butterflies.

Adopted caterpillars
About half of them were in late-stage instars. Our parsley patches were mature enough to give them some sprigs once they ate up the fennel I brought with them. Today two of them pupated.

First PupaSecond Pupa
While I was taking pictures of them I made an interesting discovery! I found a bonus baby caterpillar! It's either a first or second instar. There's a possibility it came from the museum's fennel, but it could have also come from our parsley. So I'll be on the look-out for baby cats on our two parlsey patches.

Bonus baby caterpillar with orange aphid
The two caterpillars decided to fasten themselves onto the sides of the container allowing for a good look at how they spin silk to attach themselves.
Attachment silk
By tomorrow the two pupa should shed their final skin and form their chrysalis. It can be either green or brown. While I've not had much data to go on, I've noticed that the first cats to pupate tend to have green chrysalises, but the brown are the more dominate color. In about 7-10 days these guys will emerge so stay tuned.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Accidental Lepidopterist: The More the Merrier

Three Males, Two Females
It's  been a busy day for the black swallowtails! In the past 48 hours we've had five enclose. I'm sure there will be more tomorrow. I'm so happy these guys made it through the winter.
Third male, April 4, 2014

Second female

Dorsal wing view of male and female