Friday, July 20, 2012

Papilio Polyxenes

Yesterday was a butterfly day—underlined. Discovering the name of the Monarch, with invaluable expert help from Brandon Watson, coincided with the emergence of two of six Black Swallowtail butterflies from their chrysalidae early in the morning. These creatures take several hours to become flight-ready. They spend this time sitting about, moving their wings, holding them wide open, drying them. At distant intervals they also crawl around a little and attempt small—and I mean small— little flights. It was a humid, rainy day yesterday; the drying process took extra time. Herewith selected images:

On top is the lady who emerged first. We took out the large container where she had emerged and she sort of fell, awkwardly, to the iron table outdoors. There she did some crawling about. Next, she flew to the hydrangea bush and remained there for another couple of hours before heading North. How do they know the direction in which, at this time of year, they are supposed to go?

On the bottom is Lady Number Two. The first image shows her mere minutes after emergence still clinging to the pupa from which she had struggled free. Eventually, by the same sequence of steps, she also made it to the same bush and, from there, also headed toward Canada.

Four others are still in pupa stage. One of the four is visible in the bottom left photo clinging to a stem at around 11:00 o’clock. It will take about a week more before they begin to emerge.

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