Sunday, August 23, 2009

Swallowtail Update

When I walked into the family room this morning, I caught a whiff of dill and I remembered. Two days ago, I brought in the largest and darkest Black Swallowtail caterpillar from the garden, supplied it with fresh dill and parsley (in case it was still hungry) and secured it in the punch bowl where several Monarch butterflies have been born.

Yesterday, I saw the caterpillar had suspended itself by silk threads and was hanging upside down from one of the dill stems. That's just how they do it and just what I'd expected to find in the next couple of days. This is the equivalent of a Monarch assuming the 'J' position. Soon, it would shed its final skin and pupate.

When a Swallowtail caterpillar pupates at this time of year, it's anyone's guess whether there will be a butterfly emerging in about 9-11 days or whether this one is bundled up for the winter. There's still a lot of warm weather left, with enough time for a new butterfly to mate, lay eggs and do this all over again, so hopefully, I'll get to see a butterfly emerge.

The smell of dill reminded me to check on the little guy this morning and when I did, I found that I'd missed the actual forming of the chrysalis, that it had happened some time in the night. If I'd been more alert, I'd have sat watch so I could see it happen.

In the picture, you can see several things:

  • The frass at the bottom of the bowl. That's caterpillar poop, in case you didn't know. The caterpillar rids its body of all waste just before it pupates.
  • Its old skin, which it shed as it formed the chrysalis, is hanging on the dill stem, too. In previous moltings, the caterpillar would have eaten it.
  • The color of the chrysalis. Swallowtail caterpillars can have chrysalides of varying colors. The most common is dark brown, but more rarely they will be light brown or green. Looks like we've got a green one, unless its color changes as the day goes on.

I'll put the bowl at the top of the bookshelves so it will be safe from the 'other' cats and maybe I'll have some butterfly news for you in about two weeks!


bg_garden said...

I need to stand still for a minute so I can find one of these little creatures... those photos you share are awesome!

CanadianGardenJoy said...

That is amazing to see girl !
I was so disappointed my little guy "Curly Joe" left before that process happened on my curly parsley .. I would be totally in awe too see a butterfly emerge .. you are so lucky !!
PS .. yes .. kitties would be more than interested in just watching the show !! : )

Lisa at Greenbow said...

You have quite the excitement going in your punch bowl. Fun to see. I thought the skin was a spider about to attack the crysallis. I am glad it wasn't. I can't wait to see your photos of the butterfly emerging.

PrairieGarden-Liane said...

This is so cool! Thank you so much for posting this. I can't wait to see what happens next :-)

Like Lisa I was a little distressed thinking the skin was a predator.

I will definitely stay tuned in for developments. Do you have a hard time guiding the butterfly out of the house or do you bring the punch bowl outside when it begins to emerge?


Jane Doe said...

Wonderful photos! I can't wait to see photos of the butterfly that emerges.

Louise Hartwig said...

I have 4 swallowtail chrysalis in the butterfly house, all green also have 2 monarch chrysalis. I found 7 baby monarch cats. Our mating monarchs seem to have done their job. There may be more.So fun to explore.Hope you get to capture the birth. Louise

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Oh cool!!! I keep losing my caterpillars to the birds. I will look forward to seeing updates!!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I love watching this transformation! It always amazes me!

Anonymous said...

We're all wringing our hands with anticipation. You know us waiting mothers. Hope it's sooner and not later.

Kylee Baumle said...

Bren ~ I really am so fascinated by them. Since they're in my garden, I feel like they're my babies. LOL!

Joy ~ I'll bet Curly Joe is nearby, pupating! They crawl away from whatever they're eating, just like the Monarch cats do. Keep your eyes open! Their chrysalides are hard to see as a protective measure.

Lisa ~ I hope we get to see the emergence! I can't imagine they'd pupate for the winter this early.

Liane ~ No, we don't have any problems releasing the butterflies. They emerge in the house, but it's several hours before they're able to fly. We don't release them from the punch bowl until they start flapping around a bit inside the bowl. Usually, they'll stay on my finger even after I take them out, outside. Last year when I brought the Monarch back in the day it sleeted, I kept it in the dining room and kept the door shut so it was contained to that room until the weather warmed up again and it could be on its way.

T Opdycke ~ I hope I'll have some for you!

Mom ~ Good job there!

Janet ~ Are you sure you're losing them to the birds? They do crawl away from the host plants to pupate, sometimes as much as 30-40 feet away.

Robin ~ It amazes me, too, Robin. I love watching it!

Anna ~ I do feel like a "Butterfly Mom." LOL

Wayne Stratz said...

frass is a word that needs to be more utilized in our language!

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