Friday, April 4, 2014

The Accidental Lepidopterist: Long Winter's Nap Over

How the Journey Got Started
The Accidental Lepidopterist is what I unexpectedly became last year when we found ourselves with a lot of black swallowtail and monarch caterpillars. We knowingly put out milkweed plants and I put out parsley plants not really thinking about them being host plants for black swallowtails. In July of 2013 I had a few black swallowtails go through their life-cycle, and thus feeling encouraged I increased my offering of parsley. The end result was that we had about 30 caterpillars come late August. Knowing that most of these would go into hibernation, we came up with a faux tree branch for them to attach to. Only they didn't really like this faux tree and we ended up gluing them onto the twigs. Out of the group I expected to hibernate, there were two that decided they would take their chances and enclose late in the season. We put the faux tree in a make-shift butterfly cage for some protection and then placed it in a corner of our screened porch for the winter.

Chrysalis tree from September 11, 2013
Brown chrysalis on twig, September 11, 2013
Spring Awakening
A few days ago I noticed a chrysalis looking different, like it was getting ready to enclose. So yesterday when Pooky spotted a butterfly in our cage I wasn't surprised. What did surprise me was the the butterfly didn't come from that changed chrysalis. I'll be sure to keep looking them all over as now that our first one has awakened to spring the others will follow. There's plenty of flowers in bloom for them to enjoy. We started growing parsley in large quantities, too, and even dill (which I'm not very fond of the smell). This year we hope to a black swallowtail nursery of sorts.

While the black swallowtail is not endangered or threatened like the monarch, it's still a good idea to help them out. Statistics say that only 1 in 100 eggs laid make it to the adult stage.
Male black swallowtail, first to enclose after hibernation, April 3, 2014
Beautiful vibrant colors of dorsal wings
The 1st Installment of the Season with More to Come
More adventures in my unexpected journey of lepidoptery are sure to come as we're planning to increase our offerings of host plants to monarchs and black swallowtails. We also hope to add more host plants, such as Duchman's Pipevine for the Pipevine Swallowtail (my personal favorite), and that our passion flower vine will at last be suitable for the Variegated Fritillary to lay some eggs.

We've also increased our nectar plants this year and I'm hoping our garden when in full majesty this summer will be alive with the humming of bees, hummingbirds, and the flutter of all sorts of butterflies.

1 comment:

Daisy said...

This is so cool! When I live someplace with a real yard again I want to plant things that attract butterflies.