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Raising Butterflies

Near the end of September, we were invited to go caterpillar hunting with some friends. They helped us find three Anise Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars — one BIG (Katy and her kids call those ones faterpillars), one middle-sized, and one quite small. When they’re small, they’re mostly black. Then, after they’ve shed a few times, they emerge wearing a green coat with white, yellow, and black spots. We kept them supplied with fennel which they happily ate and ate and ATE.

We missed seeing the eldest, Herb, tie him/herself to the branch and emerge as a chrysalis. We did get to see the middle one, Licorice, making silk threads. It was fascinating. Didn’t see her(?) become a chrysalis, though. But the youngest (originally named Lollipop but was later renamed George because my son thought the biggest caterpillar should have a bigger sounding name), was very kind and chose more convenient times. It took about an hour for him spin the silk threads that attached our dear George Fatestpillar to the branch. Then the next evening, after being very still for many hours, we watched in amazement as he shimmied out of his caterpillar coat. About three weeks later, he was a beautiful butterfly and we released him.

The older two seem to have decided to overwinter as chrysalises, so they’re outside in a screen “house.” We suspect that George went ahead with the usual schedule because he had been inside for much more of his life and hadn’t received the same level of winter’s-coming-soon signals.  Katy said many of hers are overwintering too and that she’s never had that happen before so early in October.

It’s been fun and inspiring to observe these small wondrous creatures and now we have something special to look forward to in the spring. Meanwhile . . . here are some photos (click on the images if you want to see them larger):

"Herb's Progress"

"Licorice "

Hopefully, sometime this weekend I’ll be able put together the photos of George and post them. I think it’s interesting how the chrysalises of the same species of butterfly can be different colours. Katy said that it depends on what colour the caterpillars sees more of when it’s time to become a chrysalis. Again, fascinating.

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