Anise Swallowtails and their larva
It might be unusual for you guys to receive pics of already-identified beasties, but I do actually have a question for you. We were delighted to encounter a pair of Anise Swallowtail larva in a jar at a store in Berkeley (called The Bone Room), and so we acquired them (for $2 each). The furry, attractive guys chewed away at their sprig of anise with great rapidity. We went on an expedition to locate additional food sources. A gigantic open parking lot at the hospital up the street was overgrown with anise. There we harvested fresh food… and looked for more caterpillars. After a while we began to spot them, and came back with a couple more. A few days later we went for more anise, and noticed that the hospital was engaging in a campaign of brush-clearing… several stands were now eradicated, chewed up and temporarily stored in plastic garbage bags (we hope they were at least headed for composting, but even that seemed unlikely). At that point we realized any caterpillars anywhere in the lot that we failed to rescue were doomed. Over the next three weeks we eventually accumulated 19 caterpillars. We found them in each of their five instars, although the majority were noticed in second instar. They are gorgeous and we enjoyed them greatly. I have very large (32 oz) plastic cups with special lids which I use for fruit fly cultures, so those were repurposed as caterpillar enclosures. They seemed to work well. Eventually we had 19 chrysalises. After less than two weeks, the first chrysalis opened, and we had our first Anise Swallowtail! When we found it, its wings were still crumpled up. We moved it outside, putting it on some moss in the shade. After running errands, we found it still there hours later – its wings fully erect, but not moving much. It was gently relocated to the Nasty Urshums (so my mother calls Nasturtiums) in the sunshine, and I captured a few pics… it flexed its wings several times in the warm sun, and then flew off! I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see that. Hand-raised swallowtails! We have since had five adults emerge, all within two weeks of the first. Here is the question: it’s now been around 7 or 8 weeks since the last one emerged… we still have over a dozen chrysalises. Some are bright green, and some are a dull brown woody color – this seems not to matter, as both kinds had successful adults before. So, what gives? Why are these ones not hatching? Are they dead? We did have one that was definitely dead – it didn’t succesfully attach to a stem or the wall or roof of the cups, and we found it blackened and rotting a couple weeks ago in some accumulated moisture at the bottom of the cups. This has not happened to the rest though. Looking at the browner chrysalises, it’s hard to imagine there is still alive insect inside… but I know well that looks can be decieving. We have had much warmer weather lately. Could this be a factor? (our house is not air conditioned, so it has gotten just as warm inside as outside). Could some be hibernating? If so, why would some hibernate while others seemed perfectly satisfied to emerge in the normal alotted time? I thank you for whatever help you can provide… and attach a scan of my best photo of the first adult as a reward. I took this with my Canon AE-1, with Kodak 400, in bright sunlight at around 250 or 500 shutter speed in shutter-priority program mode. I used my Vivitar 28-105mm (f2.8-3.8) zoom lens in macro mode. The pic has been level-corrected, color-corrected, and the contrast adjusted in Photoshop, as well as reduced in size for suitable e-mailing and webposting. Thanks
All we can suggest is to be patient. Nature has a way of ensuring survival by not having all plants sprout at the same time, and this might also apply to metamorphosis.