Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Swallowtail Update

Our black swallowtail caterpillars have become pupa!

They have now entered their most vulnerable stage of life (teenager hood--it's tough for all species), with all of their systems, except their central nervous system, dissolved into a gel, ready to rearrange caterpillar into butterfly. But first, diapause, while it waits out the winter, pretending to be just another curled brown leaf (in contrast to the beautiful jade and gold of the monarch chrysalis).

I spoke to a butterfly expert about our caterpillars Saturday, and he suggested tying thread to those very tiny strands of silk that anchor them to the sticks, and then carefully peeling away the cremaster (the anchor point) and hanging them by the thread in an open shed. The advantage of this method would be that when the butterflies emerge (or eclose), they would be able to just fly away (and not get trapped in a jar). The disadvantage is that we would not be able to bring them inside and watch it happen. The pupa might also be more vulnerable to predators, although I'm sure my pretzel jar with lime-bag netting for a cover is not exactly mouse-proof.

I decided to just put the jar up under the rafters of our carport for now. Tying thread to those tiny strands seems like it would be tricky business. Also, I do want to see the final result next spring. We just have to remember we've got them when the snow melts and it begins to warm up outside.

1 comment:

  1. We have one too!!! It got relegated to the woodshed and hoping that come the end of winter we *ahem* I remember to check on it and bring it back inside. Good luck with yours.


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