Monday, July 11, 2016

We Have Natives

And now we have this pretty chrysalis!

It was a total surprise to find it by the sunroom door a few days ago.

We had noticed that the leaves were disappearing off the pipevine, but we didn't see any caterpillars. Now we can be sure there was at least one.

Eye level by a busy door might not be the wisest place to choose for a transformation location, but well, there you have it. We will be extra-careful using this door until pupating is complete. 

We're considering taping up some sticks nearby, because the door and trim are pretty slippery and the butterfly needs something to hang onto when it emerges. That's a critical time, because the wings are folded up and the butterfly needs to hang unimpeded long enough to pump fluid into the wings, with the help of gravity. (If you haven't seen this life cycle in time lapse, go watch some videos right now! This is a good one.) 

See the little "seat belt" that holds it up? The photo gets fuzzy when I blow it up that much, but here's a close-up. I love that part!

I used to wear myself out raising caterpillars on the back porch of my previous house. They eat a lot. I was at the nursery almost daily, buying more herbs. (These are midnight swallowtails chowing down on a parsley plant.)

Transformation in progress. (See the "seat belt"?)

And then . . . .

Now we plant native host plants in the yard and hope for the best. The pipevine is quite spectacular when it's blooming, with blossoms about as big as your hand.

Sometimes the chrysalises fall victim to wasps before the transformation is done. We are solidly on the side of the butterflies -- but wasps need to eat, too, you know? Nature is never all one way.

If this pipevine swallowtail makes it, it will look very much like the midnight swallowtail in these pictures. Actually, it's the other way around: the pipevine swallowtail is poisonous, so it doesn't get eaten. Various other butterflies -- such as the midnight swallowtail -- mimic its coloring and they don't get eaten, either, even though they're not poisonous. So just by existing, the pipevine swallowtail helps other butterflies.

As I said, I used to put a lot of energy into raising the caterpillars and butterflies, which was fun but an exhausting responsibility. Now I just try to facilitate and stay out of the way.


  1. Wow - I learned so much from this post. I was not aware of the 'seatbelts' and didn't realize that newly emerged butterflies would need somewhere to hang upside down.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and the great photos!

    1. It's an amazing process, isn't it? So fun to watch but kind of nerve-wracking, too.


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