Monday, June 6, 2011

Hello Swallowtails. Goodbye Herbs

And just before we start thats Herbs...with a H. We arent French now are we?  'Erbs... I ask you.

Anyway our herbs are doing well on the deck, windowboxes and tubs are full of healthy dill, fennel, parsley and basil. And so here comes the first wave of Black Swallowtails. We had a lonely scout out there a couple of weeks ago, but now they have moved in in numbers. The food plant of the Black Swallowtail catapillar just happens to be... dill, fennel, parsley and any other member of the carrot family you care to plant.

May 30th

This female is around for much of the morning. You'll see her fluttering, dotting eggs on the food plants. She will fly off again, circle the garden and return to repeat the operation. Once she finally disappears off over the house we can check the herbs for tiny yellow eggs stuck pretty randomly whereever she could reach. The count is somewhere over 30 although its not always easy to find them all. 

The hatch takes place on the 2nd of June. The hatchlings are tiny and black with a white band around about half way down the length. They are barely a couple of millimetres and really hard to get a picture of even with the macro lens. And this year they were plain impossible with the constant breeze.

Pictures had to wait until the wind dropped and the beasts got a little bigger on June 5th..

Im still unsure of the exact progression of the moults. I'm thinking that the tiny black hatchling turns this interesting orange somewhere before the first moult. After there seems to be more definition the the spines and spots as here on the 6th.

June 8th Update.
OK forget that. What happens is that they are orange right after the moult and then turn black. Thats based on seeing one, now they are a little bigger, that was clearly just emerged, with the old skin still attached. 

They're becoming much easier to see now and I counted 25 this afternoon when I got back from work. 

They havent made much of a dent in the plants yet but they will, oh they will. There are many more to come yet and they will get a whole lot bigger.  I'm hoping to be able to follow and post right the way  through the cycle this year. Watch this place for updates.

Also around now is the Silver Spotted Skipper. This is much larger than all but one of the skippers we see. The one larger species is not a common visitor and fingers crossed I'll be able to post that one before the summer is out.

And  moving amazingly quickly aross the picnic table was this tiny mantis. We are so used to seeing them moving either with  glacial slowness or not at all that its easy to forget how fast they can move when they need to.  This one was barely 5 mm  long.

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