Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Palatial Birthing Chamber

The mysterious-looking image we present here is the covered cradle for five Black Swallowtail butterflies. Four of them are survivors of twelve!! eggs deposited by an early visitor to our butterfly ranch late in May. It laid its eggs on a quite small dill plant which, itself, had grown in the crack of our driveway but had been replanted in a pot. These four have now settled down and are about to develop their chrysalides. A Swallowtail Mom deposited the fifth one on another dill plant, of our own planting, later; it has a ways to go yet.

Each new year adds to our understanding—and lengthens the season. We’ve already dispatched two butterflies in May. They had spent all winter hibernating in our garage. We now know that the active season extends from early May to late September—when the last-laid eggs mature into caterpillars that form their chrysalides to sail through the winter frosts. We’ve already experienced raising multiple swallowtails simultaneously, but raising four from the same batch is something new. Meanwhile—and we noted this already last season—the Monarch is going through some difficult times. They are said to suffer from climate change and excessive use of pesticides. We saw very few of them last summer and, to date, only a single one so far. No chemicals are used here, at Rancho Mariposa, to be sure. And we even planted milkweed last year to send Monarchs a signal. No takers. Our advertising campaign needs a little work.

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