Flittering Through the Garden

I’ve been keeping a close watch on the fennel, hoping to spot some swallowtail caterpillars.  Last week, I hit a jackpot, with about 10 cats in different instars.  I collected four of varying sizes and put them in my net butterfly tower to observe them as they matured.  They ate all day, every day to the point where I was replacing the fennel once or twice a day.

When the first caterpillar got long and fat, I knew the show was about to begin.  I took pictures over the next four days, and here is what happened:



Here’s the caterpillar when I collected it.


The caterpillar attaches itself to a limb or twig with a fine silk ‘sling’.



Overnight, the striped caterpillar becomes a green chrysalis.  Notice it is on a green twig, so the green chrysalis gives it camouflage.


By the next day, another one has transformed into a perfectly camouflaged chrysalis to hide on this brown twig.  Forming a chrysalis the same color as the twig it’s attached to is their form of camouflage to protect themselves from birds and other predators.

I left the cages open on the breezeway so the emerging butterflies can fly away.  If left in the closed net house after emerging, they damage their wings trying to find a way out.   In one to two weeks I should have some new visitors in my garden.

I’ll move all four chrysalises into one butterfly house and bring in some gulf fritillary cats for the second net house to watch what they’ll do.


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