Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time Changes Things

My Black Swallowtail caterpillars have been growing and changing, and entering that time when they prepare for the final change into beautiful butterflies. When I last reported, my largest caterpillar was in his fourth instar. (Reminder - an instar is the stage between each molt.)

This caterpillar in particular seemed pretty feisty. Anytime he was handled, or even thought he might be handled, he used his osmeterium in self-defense. In other words, he extended a sort of fleshy antenna-looking thing and emitted a pretty nasty smell, almost like incredibly strong fresh paint. For a small guy, the smell is very potent, and it lingers.

After he reached his fifth instar, the caterpillar seemed to eat 24 hours a day, until he was huge and quite beautiful.

Finally, he was ready for the big sleep. Swallowtail chrysalises are very different in shape from those of monarchs. Additionally, they are connected in two places to the structure the caterpillar chooses. In the picture below, you can see that in addition to the silk pad at the foot, the chrysalis is also supported around the middle by a silken strand (you can click the picture to enlarge and see more detail).
The black swallowtail caterpillar is interesting for all the different stages it has, long before it becomes a butterfly. It was easy to draw these magnificent creatures to My Florida Backyard just by planting a small parsley bed. Feel free to try it for yourself - but don't expect to have any parsley left for your own use!

No comments:

Post a Comment