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August 27, 2015 / Rae Spencer

A Few Butterfly Answers

I ended yesterday’s post about Black Swallowtail Butterflies with a few questions:

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

This morning, the yard answered with uncharacteristic directness. There is definitely enough summer left — plenty of time for another generation of swallowtails.

Butterfly August 27

Butterfly August 27

Butterfly August 27

Of all the remaining chrysalises, why should the one I photographed yesterday be the one to open today?

Butterfly August 27

Maybe because I had some time available today, for research? Why else would she allow me to photograph the strange fork at the end of her proboscis? I’ve noticed something similar before, but not on all of the butterflies. What’s going on here?

Butterfly August 27

This afternoon I learned that many species of butterflies emerge with their proboscises incompletely fused. After emerging, they mechanically connect the two halves, forming a tube. This has to be done fairly quickly, or the butterfly may end up with a permanently divided (and therefore non-functional) proboscis. In the above photo (taken only minutes after emergence), the process simply wasn’t complete.

The following enlargement, cropped from one of yesterday’s emergence photos, shows the groove that results when the two halves of the proboscis are properly connected. (The tip of this proboscis had a tiny fork remaining, evidence that the butterfly still had a bit of work to do.)

Butterfly 2 August 26

So much complexity, packed into so small a creature. Wonders and miracles in every detail.

Butterfly August 27

2 Comments

  1. ProsperityAndCalamities / Aug 28 2015 7:50 PM

    Amazing pictures!

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