meshmouse
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Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

I found these four critters this morning on my parsley. They look like hornworms but are of different coloring, also smaller than most hornworms I've found on tomatos.

I put them in a planter in the shade with the sprig of parsley they were on to try and figure out if I should feed them to the birds or not. I went out for 3 hrs and when I returned, they had just about demolished all that parsley.

So, obviously I don't want them in my garden, but I don't want to do anything too drastic until I know exactly what they are (and what they become).

Any help would be greatly appreciated. This is my first attempt at uploading images. I hope I'm doing it right.

Image

Image

Image

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Black Swallowtail Butterfly...leave them be, they don't eat much and cause little damage.. End result is a beautiful butterfly. They like carrot, dill and parsley tops.
George

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Yep, gorgeous swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Nice job with the photos too.
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

I plant dill, parsley, and fennel and lots of them to share with these caterpillars!

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Thanks so much for the quick replies, guys. I'm so glad I didn't just squish them or give them to the birds.

I suppose I could afford them some more parsley and I have carrot tops for them as well.

Does anyone know the cycle they are in? If I remember correctly, their next stage is cacoon and then butterfly? How quick does this happen? Do I need to return them to the 'wild' or will they do well in their container and maybe I can observe some of the process. Do they need dirt or water?

I'm just asking in case someone knows off hand. If not, I'll google it up in bit.

Thanks again.

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Just a quick follow up on some googling. I'll be using some words and terms I haven't used for many decades, so please bare with me and point out any mistakes I make.

GEOSAN - If I can help them without harming them, I will do so. If not, I'll put them back and leave them alone. The parsley bed they are in will be cleared out once the hard frost comes and I fear their 'chrysalis' might not survive. Apparently these guys are in their fifth 'instar' phase and will soon enter the 'chrysalis' phase, at which point they will overwinter to emerge as swallowtail butterflies in the spring.

I guess whether they eat a lot or not much is relative to how much you've got to share. Now that I know that they are near the end of their feeding time, I'm sure I have enough to share. But they do eat (and poop) non-stop. If this was going to continue and expand in population, I might not find any parsley left for myself.

Juliuskitty - Thanks for the nod on the photo's. In a prior life, I used to be a 'photographer' but it became a job, so I moved on. Now I only do it for fun (which is how I got started with it).

Andie - Ahh, yes, fennel too, of course. I've got lots of that.

So I'm thinking I'm going to take a 5 gal bucket, put some compost on the bottom (that I'll keep moist), some stout fennel branches for them to 'chrysalize' on and feed them as much parsley, carrot greens and fennel as they want until they do. I'll mesh over the top to keep the birds out. Then in spring when the butterflies pop out, they'll be on their merry way. We'll see. Maybe I'll just put them back in the 'wild' parsley bed and keep an eye on them.

Apparently the 'chrysalis' process takes them from how they look in the pictures to the transformed state (looking like some prehistoric rock insect) in about 20 mins. That would be fascinating to see.

I'm thinking this thread might be misplaced as I'm not really controlling a pest problem organically, I've recognized that there is no problem. If any Mod want's to move it, I'm fine with that.

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

I think it sounds like a good plan either way. They are at the fifth instar when they are about 2" long. Have you tried tapping on their heads? They put out these cool scary antennae for a few seconds. Its protective, since unlike Monarchs, these are not poisonous to predators.
Last edited by Juliuskitty on Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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applestar
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

I feel a migraine starting so I can't compose a new message.
But this previous post (in a thread about black swallowtail caterpillars/butterflies) should contain what you asked:
Subject: Butterfly caterpillar gurus!
applestar wrote:Unfortunately my photobucket photos are out of commission again until 27th of the month.
Someone else posted some younger instar caterpillar photos here:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 64#p306264

I mentioned how long they take from chrysalis to eclosing/emerging here:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 45#p162145
(note this is the time it takes them indoors with relatively constant temp tht is cooler during the day but generally warmer during the night than outside temps)

Last year and this year, we are seeing very, very few monarch butterflies or caterpillars. I've only seen Monarch butterflies pass through twice or maybe three times this year, and no caterpillars at all so far. Very concerned that the flight that had imprinted migration route through my garden might have perished in the massive loss in their wintering grounds in Mexico or are dying out. I'm going to try to save, raise and release, any caterpillars or eggs I find in hopes of rebuilding this group.

Many black swallowtails and tiger swallowtails though.
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Yes the black swallowtail caterpillars for sure. Do check my last couple of posts on Wildlife a bit further down the line.
Before you go fixing a great crib for these, I have found when they are about 'ready' just simply run away. Make sure they have enough food, and after that perplexing. I just re-arranged a couple in the smaller pot parsley B & B's. The ones that had matured ate through a bunch, have a couple more coming on so nudged to 'greener pastures'.
Have fun!
Susan

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Sorry for the delay.

Susan W - thanks for nudging me to Wildlife. I'm still quite new to this forum and hadn't found it yet. Please give me some time to explore.

I don't understand 'parsley B&B's'. But I'm sure I will once I read your posts.

The one hesitancy I've had about making them a 'crib' is that I now have the responability to make sure they have what they require. If I fail them, they die. I take that responability seriously. This is the same reason I do not want to 'vermicompost' in containers. My worms are better off free. Casting no aspersions on those who do, that's just me. I vacilate on whether to continue this persuit or just set these guys back into the 'wild' parsley patch. But they seem to be happy so far.

But, make them a crib I did (as I previously supposed I would), altho I've learned that they do not crystilize on the same plant they feed on. So I put in a few branches of sassafras and sage, which I just happened to be pruning at the time. Being plants with volitale oils, I now think I would have been better off putting in oak, maple or hickory instead. I will correct to that.

applestar - Thanks for the links. Very insightful about the process. I'm thinking I'm not going to try to get them to emerge early (at room temperature) as I don't know that they would survive well thru the winter in the wild. I don't know, it just seems safer to let them overwinter and emerge in spring, as they naturally will (hopefully). I wish you well in rebuilding your Monarch population, and reducing the migrane.

Juliuskitty - yes, they are definitley in the fifth instar. In the third picture I posted you can see that guy rearing his pretty little ugly head and exposing a little bit of that orange antenna thing (to the threat of me poking it's head with a parsley branch). I discovered this phenomenon as I was transporting them to their new home and apparently one got bumped enough to feel threatened.

So, of course I had to get a picture of that. I bumped them one after the other, trying to get a good shot. After a few bumps, they were hesitent to display it again. In fact, they all (sloth-like) turned themselves around and went back down the parsley stalk they were on, in retreat. I was impressed with their grace and peacefulness. I was sorry I poked the bear.

I went to feed them this afternoon and apparently spooked the one closest to me and let me tell you, the antenna came out (in a big 'Y' shape) way larger than I had seen before. Long and thin and swaying about as if it was tracking me to attack me. Seriously, at least 3/4 in from tip to tip, way wider then the cat itself.

I had read that they emit an odor when they do this, which is part of the mimicking defense of the Monarch cat's poison, if I recall correctly. So I sniffed and tried to sense it. I did notice something faint. It didn't smell particularly bad or nasty so I didn't recognize it at first but on afterthought, that must of been it. It was not particulary pungent nor offensive and only lasted about five or so seconds before I could only smell parsley and compost.

By the way, along with the parsley, I have given them carrot greens and fennel, both of which they apparently have ignored while feeding on their favorite green.

I still don't know what to do, but they seem happy. If they want out of their bucket, I'll help them. They have branches that take them to within an inch of the outer edge and freedom, if they want. I will now go put oak, maple and hickory branches in.

Thanks guys

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applestar
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

They will make chrysalis on whatever is available. This has included leafless parsley, dill and carrot stems as well as strip of paper towels I put in for them to climb when in smooth plastic beverage cups and their lids.

I think it's too early in the season for them to make overwintering chrysalis. If the chrysalis is green, it's more likely that they will eclose in around 12-14 days. When we raised them, green chrysalis almost always eclosed and tan chrysalis overwintered. We had a green one that didn't eclose right away, but did in mid-February or so -- I mentioned it somewhere -- with no way to release it outside in mid-winter, we fed it melon-flavored Gatorade we had left from feeding the Monarchs and it lived for a week or so, but of course it was short lived.
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

I had to chuckle. The parsley-swallowtail B & B is bed and breakfast. I put 3 more out there yesterday. The one big one ready to do, went off and did. I can put sticks etc in the pots, and they just run. I figure they are completing their cycle, as more adults lay more eggs, etc.
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Susan W - Well, I got a chuckle as well. I pass three B&B's everytime I go to the store, but never made the connection. As Homer Simpson would say 'Dooh'.

As of this afternoon, I only see three cats. Either one made off or he is hidden in the jungle of their container (which would be a first for me). BTW they can climb straight up the side of a plastic bucket as I saw one doing so. So, if they want to get out , they can. This one turned around and went back down on a branch in the bucket. For as slow as they move, they cover great distances in a short time.

Thanks for the explaination.

same to applestar - but I need to look up a few words before I can respond (and will soon).

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Ooooh, oooh oooh. I just went out to check on them and the one that almost climbed out of the bucket but decided to go back down a branch is now in an upside down position, head hunkered down, just like you guys said would happen when going into chrysalis. That's the first time I've ever seen one in that postition (and being still).

If chrysalis is in fact what is happening, how quickly does that happen? I heard it happens quick, and would love to see it. I'll keep an eye on him.

I feel like I'm in the 3rd grade again. A little joy - relief from what's going on in this crazy world.

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

So the second cat has done the same (within an inch or so of the other, on the same stem of hard wood) and is loosing body mass as well. The third cat is still plump and pigging out on parsley. I don't want to disturb them, so no pics yet.

Apparently chrysalis doesn't happen in 20 minutes. The first one has been in that upside down position for 24 hrs and tho I can't see if it has attached threads, it may well have. They both are clearly in that same position and haven't moved since.
Last edited by meshmouse on Sat Aug 23, 2014 1:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Hmm... doesnt sound right. Did you say upside-down?
monarchs pupate upside-down but BST (Black swallowtail) anchors it's tail and then tethers "shoulders" so it's leaning back at something like 60°

If it's upside down it could be sick or infested by Tachinid fly. Can you take and post some photos?
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

applestar - by upside down I mean underneath the twig rather than on top. The top, plump cat may be getting ready to leave the bucket (he's about one inch from the top edge). Fine with me if he wants to go.

Below him is the first one to begin chrysalis. Upon zooming in I can clearly see the silk thread supporting him. Not in the picture but about an inch below is a second one in chrysalis that's about 24 hrs or so behind the one in the picture.

Image

Does everything look like it should?

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Yep. I see what you mean by losing body mass. That sort of a "comma" shape is exactly what they do -- they sort of contract like bunched up socks, and then all of a sudden split the skin and the chrysalis that they metamorphosed into is revealed. The skin is shed and discarded by wiggling it off and drops to the floor or ground.

The one on the top of the stick looks to me like it's getting ready as well.
Looking good. :D
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it?

Looking great there, and congrats on catching the rogue cats. I may try again with the swallowtail using the pop-up mesh laundry hamper. In looking at my plants, have quite a colony going. There are 3 in stripes in a large pot. I just saw 3 or was that 4 just hatched in the b & b area.
Have fun!
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

Update! 2 more just spotted on a rue that is in a large container. They are midway between dark with light midriff band and striped.
Have fun!
Susan

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

Thanks for the reponses -

I'll be posting pics of a very exciting day shortly.

Susan W -

Glad to hear you've spotted two more in the rue. Please forgive my ignorance, but what is 'rue'?

When you say 'stripes' you mean that they look like the one on top? I'm new to this. I've seen some pics of how they look (I guess you would say) instar one, two,... so instar defines their development from larvae to cat to chrysalis? Is that right?

So, you're seeing the eggs hatch, larvae emerge and develope to 'stripes' (cats)?

It sounds like you've got quite a nest going there. Good work.

applestar -

Yes, that one on top is looking for a branch to call home. Did you know they can travel the circumerance of a 5 gal bucket in about a minute. I'm sure you do, but I just found out.

He's expending way too much energy searching for the right spot. In 5 mins more, if he hasn't settled down, I'll put him out on my apple tree.

As I was placing a beech branch in the bucket (that I thought he might like) I disturbed him to the point that those orange antenna came out and I could smell a scent that was very much like a ripe muskmelon. Interesting.

Pics are coming. Thanks guys for helping me to understand this.
Last edited by meshmouse on Sat Aug 23, 2014 1:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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applestar
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

They want a sheltered location UNDER something they can hide from being easily spotted by birds, etc predators. Rather than a bare stick, they would more likely go for a canopy of branches and leaves. Do you have a cover on the bucket? A cloth taped or tied on like SusanW used, a board 1/2 covering the top, etc. if you use a temporary surface like a strip of paper towel or paper towel tube taped to the side of the bucket, you can transfer it to another location later.

In the caterpillar rearing cup and cage, I often end up with parsley/dill/carrot stem with the chrysalis attached to it, and of course the stem will wilt long before they are ready to eclose. So I cut the stem above and below the chrysalis attachment and then tape it or tie it onto side of the butterfly eclosure cage/tent.

...it IS a lot if fun. You start noticing caterpillars more often and want to watch them eclose 8)
I only capture caterpillars that I can identify or find the right food for though. I once caught a caterpillar I didn't know, and tried giving it just about every vegetation I could think of, and it refused them all so I had to let it go.... only to ID it later on-line and realize I had plenty of food for it had I known. :lol:
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

I think 2010 was a busy year raising Monarchs -- prior to that disastrous Mexican winter colony loss a year or two later. Here's an old post with our rearing set up. We primarily raised Monarchs but also raised Black Swallowtails and others using the same set up. Maybe these photos will give you some ideas.

Subject: Our 2010 Monarch Project is well underway
applestar wrote:Aw -- thanks, Gixx. :D Post your photos when you have them. I'd love to see what kinds of butterflies and moths you have in your garden. :wink:

Our Hot Pepper Killer (not the one that couldn't be found but the one I discovered in my New Hot Pepper Bed) hornworm burrowed under the paper towels and started shredding them a few days ago:
Image
This morning, it successfully pupated ! DD8 was so happy -- and intrigued 8):
Image
You can see the looped hook/tail in the near end of the pupa.

Here are the photos of Monarch Project rearing set up for this year:
Eggs and 1st Instars:
Image
2nd~3rd Instars:
Image
3rd~4th Instars:
Image
4th~5th Instars/Chrysalises/Newly Eclosed Butterflies:
Image
Image
Image
Image
Tagged and ready to release Monarch butterflies:
Image
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

Dang girl! Apple, you don't do anything halfway, do you?( insert admiration here :lol: )
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

applestar -

Wow! (and I don't use exclaimation points lightly). I have many questions to ask, but they will come later.

Yes - the bucket has it's lid loose on top, maybe 1/4 open, and they can get out if they want (as one did). I had a flock of birds run thru yesterday and I'm sure these guys would have been dead meat if they were out in the parsley bed.

I saw your post on a Mystery Chrysalis (Red Admiral), so I got a sense of your 'rearing' cup. Nice.

I was wondering when you said previously that they would chrysalis on a parsley stem or even a paper towel (particularly when overwintered), wouldn't the stem degrade and what problems would that bring. Once again, (duct) tape to the rescue.

By context, I think you've defined one the words I was going to google. Eclose is when the butterfly emerges from chrysalis, if I've got that right.

Regarding the right food for the guest, that's why I'm here. Above all, do no harm.

Thanks for the photos on your rearing set up. Give me some ideas?, I think my mind has been blown.

So, anyway - an hour and a half after I took that pic I posted this morning, I looked in and saw this.

Image

I have more images that I am busy editing. More tomorrow - and thanks.

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

About these pics -

They are all handheld (no tripod). I was bracing myself as well as I could on the edges of the 5 gal bucket, being careful not to bump my subject as the lense was usually about an inch away.

They are straight out of the camera. No cropping or image manipulation.

The sun was ducking in and out behind clouds and my usual life (dogs, deer, neighbors) was going on all around me.

I will give the time the pic was taken and when it gets past noon I'll use military/maritime standard, counting 24 hrs to the day.

The first pic I posted Aug 22 (when it was still looking like a cat) was taken at 08:14. The second pic posted (clearly chrysalis) was at 09:46.

This one was taken at 10:14

Image

This at 10:31

Image

This at 11:32

Image

This at 13:10

Image

This at 13:49

Image

This at 14:57

Image

This is the third cat looking for a position. When he touched the chrysalis, it vibrated/wiggled (surprised me) and startled him so his stink antenna popped out a little bit.

And this at 15:06

Image

And that's pretty much how it looks now, 18 hrs later.

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

Yeah. In one of my old posts, I noticed I speculated that the color of the chrysalis might actually be camouflage and depends on the object it was attached to. So maybe my mostly green chrysalises are because they are on green stems, and here, you have a dry stick colored chrysalis....

The progression is cool. If you have the app for it, put it together into a slide show/video. I did that with a monarch 5th instar in J position to full chrysalis photo series and a chrysalis eclosing to fully wing-dried Monarch butterfly. I have them somewhere. I still need to learn to post videos (I keep saying it but never have the time.)

If it ecloses this season, it should happen in 9-14 days with 11 days as a typical median/average (in my indoor set up experience).
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

Thanks applestar -

I'll bet you're right about the color for camouflage. It really looks like part of the branch, even more so today.

An interesting thing happened. Even tho it took cat three quite a while to find a place to hunker down, when he finally did, it was on the same branch as one and two. All in row, seperated by an inch or two.

I was also amazed at the structure of the silk's attachment to the twig. A few pics show it quite detailed when you zoom in. You can also see the silk belt pressing into the chrysalis by it's own weight.

If I were on a tripod and all the shots were from the same point of view, I would consider animating it. But it would be pretty jumpy with what I got.

Thanks for the time frame, that was my next question.

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

Bingo! My swallowtail cats go rogue and I never can or do track down whereabouts of chrysalis. This AM just doing a walk about saw a newly hatched butterfly on the side of a pot airing its crisp new wings.
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

I think I have birds getting smarter on the caterpillar buffet. I seem to be losing them before they get to full size. Sigh.
Have fun!
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

Susan W -

If running rogue, they still have a chance, but if the birds have learned there's no risk, not so good for the cats.

I was reading in the Wildlife section (as you suggested I do re: chrysalis) about how re-located and orphaned animals don't usually do well.

I was also reading about Viceroys mimicking Monarchs which are apparently poisonous to birds and how the birds have learned to avoid them.

I was wondering, if a bird was raised as an orphan, without parental guidance, would it not know to avoid Monarchs? If so, that would mean that that knowledge is passed on during raising and not genetically imprinted in the breed. It would also mean that one bird noticed what another ate before it died, and put 2 & 2 together, cause and effect logic. Or is something else at play?

Any insights? I'm just curious as to how it works that Monarchs are avoided by birds.

Thanks

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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

It's a very interesting question about how birds know to avoid Monarchs and Viceroys. Here's one answer:

Mimicry: A harmless animal evolves to look or behave like a dangerous animal. The viceroy
butterfly mimics the coloration of the poisonous monarch, which most birds are genetically
programmed
to avoid.

https://www.ocs.cnyric.org/files/filesys ... cology.pdf

an article on Behavioral Ecology in the journal Animal Sciences, December 1, 2009

I don't know that that is the last word, behavioral ecology is a rapidly evolving field.
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meshmouse
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Location: Long Island NY USA zone7a

Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

rainbowgardener -

Very interesting article.

At the risk of going OT, I found this particular bullet to be very insightful -

Courtship: The special signals and complicated rituals that allow male-female bonds to occur for
mating purposes. These behaviors assure the intentions and, consequently, the safety of both
partners, who might attack or devour an approaching mate if the signals are unclear.

Back on topic, I wonder how learned behavior becomes instinctive. Natural selection somewhat explains it, but then - why do squirrels still cross the road after over a hundred years of getting squished by tires?

Thanks for the link.

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applestar
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Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

I found a BST in a J (ready to metamorphose into a chrysalis) and
brought it inside. It eclosed today :D
image.jpg
chrysalis was green
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meshmouse
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Posts: 132
Joined: Fri Jul 11, 2014 2:14 pm
Location: Long Island NY USA zone7a

Re: Like a Hornworm, but what is it? >> Black Swallowtail

Very beautiful applestar. Do you set it free right away?

I checked on my three and the first one into chrysalise is showing its tail turning darker brown and I think changing shape. On closer inspection it's definitly hollow, I think it eclosed since this morning and flew the coop. The other two are definitly full. Day thirteen, right on schedule.

Image

I put a screen on top just in case I miss the process with the next two, I can at least see the butterfly before it goes off.

It seems a shame they didn't overwinter as their life will be relatively short. As I understand it, they live long for butterflies. Is that true, if so, how long?

Oh, and look what I just found in the parsley.

Image

Thanks

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