Thursday, June 28, 2012

Butterfly Update

Herewith our second Black Swallowtail butterfly of the 2012 season. We’ve learned how to tell the boys from the girls, and this is a lady. We now realize that we've yet to see a male. Their wings, seen from the back, are a bright pattern of yellow and black. Ours are mostly black from that perspective—except for the tell-tale markings, not least “eyes” at the tail.

The first image shows the lady just some minutes after she emerged from her chrysalis. She spent about three hours drying her wings and testing her ability to fly. She had affixed her pupa to the screen as well and hence, presumably, felt comfortable in this odd posture. In the second I show her with her wings spread, still in our sun room.

Here, finally, I show her literally seconds before her first solo flight into nature actually began—from a kind of little basket Brigitte had used to collect her from the window sill to bring her out of doors. As all the butterflies we've nurtured so this, the Second Lady of the Spring, also headed straight north.

Now for something different. We discovered, yesterday morning, three new larvae of this species on two different dill plants. They are at their earliest stage and hence virtually impossible to see. At this stage their coloration is brown, with a white spot in the center. Very rapidly they turn black—except for that spot, of course. To illustrate the tiny size of the creature, I will show in succession the dill plant (an arrow marks the area where one larva lurks), the portion of the plant where I saw it, and last, the enlargement of the area itself.

We’ve learned today that Monarchs are as partial to milkweed as Black Swallowtails are to dill. Expanding our view, we’re about to acquire some milkweed. Both of my cameras were on strike when the First Lady of Spring arrived. Our neighbor caught some images, and those may yet be shown.

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