The Mystery Guest Revealed

3 07 2009

Remember the Mystery Guest? Well, no one offered an ID. Guess y’all have better things to do, LOL.

Let’s have a review.

The Mystery Guest has already grown up and returned to start her new family in the Oasis.

Here is an egg which she deposited on the Italian Parsley.

Egg-Leaf

In this shot a baby caterpillar investigates an older egg (which is about to hatch).

Egg-Cat

Here is one of a slightly different color.

Small-Caterp

They grow up fast. These two are likely only a few days apart in age.

2Catperps

Out with the old skin, in with the new and improved striped skin!

New-Stripes

Here’s one with the next size up striped suit.

Little-Stripey

This is our Mystery Guest right before she went on walkabout to search for a place to pupate.

Mystery-Guest2

I moved her to a potted plant on the steps, where she ate a little bit more and then built her silk harness.

MysteryGuestHammock

The next morning I found that she had made a green chrysalis. They make both green and brown. I first thought it had to do with camouflage, but I have seen both colors on the same plant. Perhaps the color is pre-programmed, allowing a 50% chance that they will end up on a matching colored stick.

I checked my calendar and planned to keep an eye out for her emergence in two weeks.

MysteryChrysalis

Six days later I went outside to check something, and was surprised to see that she had wasted no time in her transformation. I rushed to grab my camera, and manged to fire off a few shots as she dried her wings.

Papilio-Polynexes-emergin

Within moments (and probably to get away from me), she opened her wings and fluttered off.

Papilio-Polynexes

This lovely gal posed for me before flitting away to find food and a mate. She has returned to the garden, every day, to deposit her eggs on all of the host plants. When I pick my herbs I must be on the lookout for the little visitors, and sometimes have to sacrifice a few unhatched eggs, in order to harvest for the kitchen.

Here she is today. The wind has taken its toll on her wings, but it doesn’t seem to deter from her mission of laying eggs. She was tired, and seemed to pose for over a minute as she rested on the dill plant; then she was off to deposit more mini-pearls of the next generation.

Mama-Returns

You have just witnessed the life cycle of Papilio polyxenes Fabricus, 1775, otherwise known as the Eastern Black Swallowtail.

Those colorful caterpillars (once they change from mimicking bird poop), are also known as “Dillworms, Celeryworms, Carrotworms or Parsleyworms”. I think the names adequately explain their diet. Although they seem garish and conspicuous, the caterpillars are actually quite well disguised when they are on their host plants (sort of like zebras on the grassy plains).

The adults do little more than consume nectar, mate and deposit their eggs; all of which they are welcome to do in the bounty of my little garden.

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One response

25 02 2011
Mandi

Your photos of the swallowtail’s transformation are fantastic. I have never seen it in its entirety before, thanks so much for sharing!

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