Garden Drama

Of all places in the garden to attach a chrysalis, one of our black swallowtail caterpillars (Papilio polyxenes asterius) chose the smooth metal drainpipe along the side of the house.  How the caterpillar bridged the collar with an opening to an underground drain, I can’t guess. But here is where I found the emerging butterfly struggling to gain a foothold on the smooth surface… and failing. It was in big trouble and I could tell it had been here too long with wings partly out and beginning to plump.

cocoonI felt a little like a butterfly midwife as I assisted in the birth by offering a twig. It was readily accepted and it climbed aboard. I gently urged the butterfly onto a viburnum shrub and watched as she began to unfurl and pump up those gorgeous wings… that I believe identified her as female.

butterflyIt was exciting to be so close and be able to study the beautiful wings, her huge eyes, and watch her coil and uncoil her proboscis.  Click for closeup.

I left her on a trunk of the viburnum where she continued to dry and pump her wings. An hour later I checked and she had flown…. I hope straight to the summersweet for a nice first meal as a butterfly.

It made me smile to think she got her start in the parsley beds 5 feet away that I planted just for her and her siblings.

Eastern Black Swallowtail

6 thoughts on “Garden Drama

  1. What a beautiful story and adventure, and what a beautiful creature.
    There was a serious butterfly shortage in Richmond this season;
    I cannot help but suspect the dawn of the mosquito control companies
    for this phenomenon, which claim to subscribing homeowners that it’s only
    a mosquito specific pesticide.
    Anyway, beautiful story.

    Like

    • Thanks Jonah. For those not in the know, Jonah is the PR and Marketing Coordinator of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond VA, an amazing destination for flora and fauna enthusiasts. Education is their goal and I’ve learned much through their programs. The Butterfly LIVE! exhibit rules. Oh, and USA TODAY named them the #2 Best Botanical Garden in North America. Check them out at http://www.lewisginter.org.

      Like

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