Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Caterpillar Crises, Recoveries

Late in July (as reported here) we discovered at first three and then an additional two tiny black-yellow caterpillars of one Black Swallowtail butterfly we had seen dancing our backyard some days before. Last year we had discovered one, and that one quite late in its progress. We named it, and the beauty that it eventually became, Aristo. Then, about three days later, the little dark but yellow-dotted creatures had rapidly grown to resemble last year’s Aristo, although they were then still less than half Aristo’s size. Herewith a couple of photographs of one, presented here, as it were In Memoriam. I’ll explain that phrase in a moment.

In Memoriam because, the very next day, to our utter horror, we discovered not only the first three we’d found but also the other two—gone. Some birds had found and dispatched them in the wink of an eye and five snaps of the beak later. And we entered a kind of period of mourning. And reflection. On the Nature of Things. All this marvelous work of butterfly flights, hovers over dill plants. Those very brief landings lasting just long enough to deposit eggs that, thanks to the gargantuan labors of DNA and enzymes and The Plan first appeared as lovely black-yellow and later as green-white-black caterpillars—intended someday soon, a few weeks later, to take wing themselves. But No! The sharp eyes of a bird, itself the magical product of nature, caught these delicious morsels and they turned into—food!

Over the next two weeks we happened to be present to witness for ourselves at least four or five new visits by Black Swallowtails. They must have very keen powers of smell to find our rather rich sampling of dill plants. They also came when we were gone, no doubt, and we’ve been gone a lot.

Well, what do you know! Inspecting those dill plants again, as I’ve done most mornings, this morning I discovered three new caterpillars, one on one and two on an other plant. They are at the early stage, thus very small, very dark, and displaying only a single yellow dot. Well indeed! I ran to get Brigitte. Then we prepared a large pot with fresh soil and immediately transplanted the two dill growths into the pot and brought that one indoors into our bright Sunroom where birds are perhaps visible but always through glass or screen alone.

Thus our butterfly adventure continues. If our luck extends, more notes will appear here in due time.

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