Thursday, October 16, 2008

Caterpillar Diaries: Day 29

I'm confused, and I think our Eastern Black Swallowtails are, too.

We've never had butterflies emerge so late in the season. After the four chrysalises formed, I kept the jar on the school table for a few days. Then Marianna noticed that one was getting darker. Not the change from green to brown that they sometimes make, but the darkening that in the past has foretold the rotting of a "dud".

That was my signal to put the jar in the fridge to prevent any others from going bad. A few days later I had to take the jar out again to make room for groceries, but I left it in the basement, which is at least cooler than the main level.

After a few more days--eek!--I saw a butterfly in there as I passed by! It had emerged from the first (darkened) chrysalis, I think 14-15 days after forming.

I put the jar outside in the shade to let nature decide what to do with these guys. We've had some cool nights, but also some really warm days, so there may be some confusion about overwintering vs. emerging NOW.

Another butterfly has emerged since then, and a third chrysalis is darkening. The jar is staying outside for now. If we have any chrysalises left when winter truly arrives, I'll need to decide about leaving them out vs. putting them in the fridge. Butterfly #2 waiting to be released. Can you see the empty chrysalises on the stick and the wall?
It was still subdued and crawled from hand to hand rather than flying away immediately, so we must have found it not long after its emergence.

Joe coaxed it onto a flower in Marianna's cutting garden. We also have a butterfly bush nearby.

This second EBS was released on October 13 (caterpillar day 33). I'm not too optimistic about its survival and reproductive chances, but I suppose this is what would have happened if it had always lived outside, too.

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