Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pupa, Potato Salad and other unrelated subjects.

Well sorry but its taken almost a week to get back to update on the Black Swallowtails or anything else for that matter. Just stuff happens and it just doesn't get done.
Gettin' Mighty Crowded.
A Needhams Skimmer and a Blue Dasher share a perch Sunday.

Anyway, as predicted last time, the cats moved out to pupate the next day  
 ( Tuesday 14th) When I got home the food plants were deserted but for a scattering of new eggs. And the task of figuring out where they went began in earnest. And, truth be told, we haven't had our most successful year when it comes to tracking down the wanderers. So far, of the 18 counted the last time we have

That one was found attached to Banished Jr.s playhouse about 30 feet away from the herb pots. And since then we have searched in vain. I'm sure they are fine but its going to make the task of documenting the life cycle a pretty hit and miss affair. There is a very good chance I'll come home one day late this week and find an empty pupal case. What the heck, if so I'll have to fall back on 5 years of old pictures.

The caterpillar finds its prefered spot, attaches itself with a loop of silk that runs around the upper body and halt curls as here. The legs seem to withdraw and slowly but surely we go from here... 

to here...

It seems to take around 24 hours to completely change shape and colour. And based on past observations its going to take about another 2 weeks before emergence. I hope to show you that but really..don't hold your breath. I'm going to miss it 99.9% certain and unless we turn up any more in quick time we are unlikely to get another shot. Best chance then is the batch, already hatched today and eating.

Talking of eating I did say I'd do my potato salad recipe before the cats ate  all the dill. Now many potato salad recipes call for hard boiled eggs.Mine doesn't as hard boiled eggs are utterly vile and I can't bear to be in the same room as one let alone eat one.
So here is my recipe for non HBE potato salad.

2 pounds small waxy salad potatoes. White or red skins doesnt matter I think the red looks more interesting though.
2 cups of mayonnaise
1 cup of sour cream
2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of sweet cucumber relish (or a 2 inch dill pickle finely chopped and a tablespoon of the pickle brine)
Salt and pepper to taste
The biggest stonking great handful of fresh dill you can get, checking that a) the Blackswallowtails didn't already eat it and b) that you dont pick any of them by mistake. Wash and then chop this finely.

Boil the potatoes until just tender, they don't want to be falling apart. When cooled cut into bite sized slices, it usually works out as into 2 or 3 pieces depending on just how big...or small your potatoes were.

Combine all the other ingredients stirring well and then add the cold sliced potatoes and fold it all together. Its actually better for leaving a while ideally overnight as this will let all the flavours infuse.
And thats all there is to it. This has the Banished's mother-in-law's seal of approval.

So what else happened in the week? 

Variegated Frittilaries or at least one happened yesterday (Saturday) I've planted passionflowers in both the front and back gardens this year in an effort to encourage these and this is the first one to turn up since the plants went in. This is the caterpillrs food plant and I hope to see some activity there soon. I've read that the pupa is particularly beautiful. The adult is pretty attractive too.
As Ive commented before the yard is full of tiny grasshoppers, thousands of them it seems. I found this one inside the house and escorted it outside. Only then did I notice just how pleasingly coloured it is. Its a Spur Throated grasshopper of some kind but hard to put a concrete ID to so early.
It certainly was too early.  It took the grasshopper experts at BugGuide until mid-July to decide  it was Melanoplus punctulatus the Pine tree Spur throated grasshopper.

Grasshoppers seem to have the most beautiful eyes of any insect group.

There are two types of small but very colourful spider to be found in numbers in the garden every year. This one is the Basillica Orb Web and its finally getting to be big enough to take a decent picture. The colour and shape are wonderful. The other species the Orchard Orb Web is less  distincticivly shaped but if anything the colour is even better. Wait and see.  

I went out into the back yard today and saw something I've not seen before in 7 years here. The yard was full of dozens of dragonflies looping, chasing, hunting I know not what. There had to be something but I'm damned if I could see what they were feeding on. Needless to say nothing stopped for a pic and while it would have made a fun video long shot photos didnt really show what was happening. I just stood in the garden with the beasts zooming around my head happy as a sandboy (whatever one of those is). The clouds looked to be mainly Needhams and Carolina saddlebags but I'm sure there were others too.
The whole thing lasted about a half hour and then they simply dispersed. Also interesting, while all this was happening just off the ground there was a small hawk some way higher that was very vocally chasing and catching the dragonflies that strayed too high and out of the crowd.

I've been cheating a little down at the ponds edge the last couple of days. Ive taken some of last years dried out plant stems and cattails and planted a few 'perches' of my own in clearer space and a little closer than any that had occured naturally. Its worked in the past and I hope it will this year too. However the natural vegetation proved the perch for this Needhams Skimmer on Saturday

A nice pose from a Halloween Pennant

And lastly, a reminder that if you go too high the hawks will get you and if you stray too close to the surface...


1 comment:

  1. d'oh! have to post again!

    I have forwarded potato salad recipe to my frau for appraisal!