Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Butterfly Ranch

 These are photos I took last summer of the Giant Swallowtails that frequented the garden

The Giant Swallowtails are the real reason I planted 3 parsley plants in the garden.

I knew that, after mating, the Giant Swallowtails lay their eggs on parsley and that was also what the larvae / caterpillars fed on until they were ready to pupate.

Once the eggs hatch they are ugly little blotches that resemble bird poop.  I'm sure that is Mother Nature's way of trying to give them some hope of survival.

And sure enough I found the teensy tiny larvae hatched and feasting on the parsley.  The youngest one is barely seen on the parsley leaf in the upper right hand corner.  The larvae in the middle is a couple of days older.

The first group of larvae I found feeding on the parsley several weeks ago quickly disappeared in a day or two.  No doubt they were food for the birds.

Consequently, the next time I noticed more, I removed them from danger of becoming dinner for the Mockingbirds and moved them to the garage.

I carefully cut off the stem of parsley that was host to a caterpillar and placed the stems in vases of water.  I added extra parsley so they would have enough food for several days.

Within days they begin to grow out of their ugly little hairy bird-poop stage and become quite pretty.

These creatures eat and poop, eat and poop, eat and poop.  And the bigger they get the more they poop.  Such it is with Mother Nature.

Each day I would clean change out their poopy paper towel and refresh their food supply.

 This little guy looks different from the others; like the black and yellow markings are opposite.  I'll be keeping my eye on this one to see if his pupa is different.


When the caterpillars have eaten until they can eat no more, they start to wander off the parsley in search of a good place to anchor themselves and ready themselves for their final stage before becoming a butterfly.

 I found two crawling on the garage floor so I quickly put them on a tree branch that I had for decorative purposes.

See those two little yellow antennae-looking things?

 I accidentally touched his back and he reared up a little and out popped these two little yellow things.  At the same time I noticed that he sprayed a fine odorous substance (another defense mechanism).  Does anyone else think he looks like Alf in this pose?

I Google searched to find out what these antennae were and they are called the osmeterium and they do in fact put out an odor.

 This one quickly found a nice place to attach himself.   He attaches to the branch with a extremely thin (but obviously very strong) silk thread.

Here he is in his pupa stage

I also found one that crawled up on the ceiling of the garage.

Here's one that stopped on the wall of the garage.

This one found him a cozy little place behind the door to  the back patio but it looks as if a wasp or spider began eating him in the middle of his pupation.

These two obviously didn't want to leave the feeding trough and attached to a thick sturdy parsley branch.  Seems some of the pupa are green,  and some have a brown pupa.  I don't know what that means, if anything, but I'll be watching to see if a slightly different type of Swallowtail emerges.  Perhaps they'll all turn brown at some stage. I'm on a learning curve here.

Since the majority of the caterpillars seemed to be at the 'wandering' stage I put the rest of them in the bug cage so they would be safe and I wouldn't have to search for them in the garage.

All in all there are about 12 that have pupated and 1 that is getting close to taking his "walk".

Within a couple of weeks I should be setting some of these free to start the cycle all over again.

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