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August 26, 2015 / Rae Spencer

More Swallowtails

Swallowtail August 5

The yard’s swallowtail cycle went into high gear through the early weeks of August. Which meant that, for a while, there were more caterpillars than the predators could eat. (And then the caterpillars ate faster than the parsley and fennel could grow, which meant another trip to the garden store.)

Swallowtail August 5

At one point there were so many caterpillars on the parsley, and so many eggs being laid, that mistakes were made.

Caterpillar and Egg Aug 5

Caterpillar and Egg Aug 5

Since I had a container ready, I decided to collect “a few more” caterpillars. (As it turned out, twenty-two was a few too many, forcing yet another trip to the garden store.)

Caterpillar August 20

I dreamed of waking one day to a container full of butterflies. An unlikely dream, yes, but a lovely one!

Butterfly August 20

(Unlikely because only three of my first thirteen caterpillars survived to become butterflies. Some died of unknown causes, some were destroyed when a predator broke into their enclosure, and three fell victim to what I suspect was a parasitoid.)

Chrysalis Damage Aug 19

I was thrilled when twenty-one of the twenty-two caterpillars survived to become chrysalises.

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And, while the butterflies haven’t emerged in a coordinated swarm, they have begun to emerge. Twelve, so far, of the twenty-one. (Including two this morning.)

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This is a vast improvement over three of thirteen!

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Thrilled with this success, and having a bit of parsley left over, I’m still collecting caterpillars. Last weekend four of the latest group roamed until they were exhausted, then settled into chrysalises.

Caterpillar August 20

I wonder if there is enough summer left for them? Will they emerge and mate this year? Or will they wait until spring, pausing the cycle as they sleep through winter’s dreary interlude?

Chrysalis August 26

6 Comments

  1. ProsperityAndCalamities / Aug 26 2015 7:21 PM

    Wild pictures!

  2. katehodges690 / Aug 27 2015 11:08 AM

    What a blessing! I am going to try to imitate you next year. I even have a spot picked out for my new butterfly garden.

    • Rae Spencer / Aug 27 2015 4:43 PM

      Good luck with your butterfly garden! I’ve had more fun this summer, watching butterflies and caterpillars, than I would have thought possible. 🙂

  3. jeanryan1 / Aug 27 2015 3:24 PM

    A fine endeavor, helping life along, especially the mysterious lives of Lepidoptera. I wonder if we will ever know how life is sparked from the dead sea inside a chrysalis. How thrilling to be involved in this miracle!

    • Rae Spencer / Aug 27 2015 4:27 PM

      Watching the cycle, I get more and more curious. How does it all work?! “Miracle” is the only explanation I can settle on…

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