Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer at the Butterfly House

So where have the postings gone?

Basically, we've been busy (gardening, life, work) or gone (PA, NH). But in between, we've had various butterfly visitors.

May saw the release of several Spicebush Swallowtail and Black Swallowtails that had overwintered as pupae.

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The girls also tried their hand at raising Cabbage Whites (translation: daddy fed the caterpillars).

Then summer began in earnest. We had many, many American Lady eggs laid on Pussytoes. Some of those came inside and we experimented with using whole plants as food, with mixed success. A friend "donated" a clutch of (unwanted) Black Swallowtails on parsley. We successfully raised the caterpillars to chrysalises on a new hostplant, Golden Alexanders -- only to have all but two pupae die mysteriously. Variagated Fritillaries, Monarchs, Spicebush Swallowtails, and Orange Sulfurs were all raised.

The exciting moment of Summer 2011, however, was finding 25 Pipevine Swallowtail Battus philenor caterpillars on July 12 that had stripped some Virginia Snakeroot Aristolochea serpentaria bare. This was a great moment because our pipevines had gone without caterpillars for their entire four year lifespans.

The cats naturally came in. Here's one, looking rather alien-like:

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They're even cuter en masse:

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Leaving for vacation on July 20 required turning all of our caterpillars loose on various hostplants. One consolation was that there was yet another batch of Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars on the large pipevine Aristolochea macrophylla. Sure enough, on return we found five of those caterpillars -- along with many chewed leaves and frass, which suggests that the original 25 did not all perish.

A significant new change was the creation of a large caterpillar cage -- THE Butterfly House -- that will keep caterpillars off the back porch. The five PVS cats are currently testing it out for me.

JRC

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