Sunday, August 15, 2010

Black Swallowtail Cats Going To School!

We had an exciting day to say the least on the Durham Butterfly Count. My party of three ladies and myself found well over 1000 butterflies and 45 species in all! We had a total of 396 Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, not a record for the count but likely as many as the other 4 parties found combined.  Also we had 53 Silvery Checkerspots and Will by himself found 50 as well blowing away the normal 12-15 found on the previous counts. Usually 1 Zebra Swallowtail is a lucky find on this count, we had 16 of them and Will had 4, so 20 in all!

The bad news is Meg and I both found maybe 500 seed ticks on our pants. I have never seen seed ticks in these kind of numbers around here. The places I have been where seed ticks are found someone usually brings tape to get them off our clothes. We dowsed them in bug spray to get rid of them and then took a very strong shower after the count.

OK now to the title posting about Black Swallowtails. Meg now teaches second grade and as many of you might know second grade usually teaches about life cycles. Tonight we gleaned around 20 of the 38 Black Swallowtail caterpillars in our garden to take to class tomorrow! Our Bronze Fennel finally brought in some Black Swallowtails, we only saw 2 today on the count.

These 4 Black Swallowtail caterpillars we all lined up on the fennel this evening, ready for school! We left these in the garden as they were eating a fennel in a place we don't want fennel. Fennel is very invasive be careful if you do plant it as it grows very well in the gravel driveway where it is hard to dig up. I usually toss out 2 out of 3 plants in the garden every spring.
male Black Swallowtail on verbena, from years past in our garden.
female Black Swallowtail on thistle.
Learn more about Black Swallowtails on my main web page at this link. Note when you get to the Black Swallowtail page you will find a second page link on the bottom left and links to similar swallowtails as well as all my pages do.

One other thing I wanted to mention about raising butterflies in the classroom. There are a lot of butterfly farms that sell kits of Painted Ladies and Monarchs from places far away for schools to raise. A lot of butterfly watchers do not approve of bringing in distant populations of butterflies and mixing them into local populations. At least we know these Black Swallowtails were of a local population and once mature releasing them back into the wild will not harm or alter the local population. Good thing Meg has me the butterfly guy as a partner isn't it?


Kyna said...

I love that the caterpillars are the same colours as the butterflies. Which of course makes sense, because it's not magic that the caterpillar morphs into a butterfly. But is SEEMS like magic. :)

Southern Lady said...

I'm so glad that you had a great time with the butterfly count. I always love the pictures that you share. Carla

Town Mouse said...

Very impressive! I can't imagine doing a butterfly count. Can you explain how you make sure you don't count the same butterfly twice?
(This is not a smart-ass comment, I really am curious how this works).

Jan (VA Zone 7A) said...

This is all wonderful info Randy...I so wish I could have been there too! I am learning so much from you, BUT I'm still no better at being able to differentiate the swallowtail varieties on my's so hard! At least it is for me:-)

tina said...

That is a LOT of butterflies. Wonderful shot of those three swallowtails. P.S. The monarchs ate my WHOLE stand of tropical butterfly weed-first time for that!

Carol said...

Oh Randy, those shots of the caters all lined up on the fennel is fantastic! Your other Swallowtails are too of course. What a joy to see so many butterflies in one day!! What fun! I have never join in on a count like that... must see if there is one around here. Yuck to the tick population though... I guess we cannot have increases with the creatures we love without having those we could happily live without! What a pity! Great post! ;>)

Shady Gardener said...

What great photos! I love the caterpillar line-up!

Mr. Shady has been growing butterfly milkweed seedlings for his prairie this summer. We've been gone for two weeks, and when we returned last night, he was (nearly) devastated to see that the leaves had been chewed off many of his little plants (as well as many stems). There were Monarch caterpillars that had found these tasty little plants... hopefully the plants will be okay. (I wonder where they'll make their chrysalis?)

Skeeter said...

I wonder on butterfly and bird counts, how does one not mistakenly count the same bird or butterfly over and over again? That would be my issue with taking part of a counting.

Wow, you have a lot of butterflies in your area this year. We do not seem to have as many as in years past and I find that odd when so many are talking about the massive amounts they are seeing this year. Hum... If my tree is indeed a Cassia Giant, the butterflys can have it!

Cameron said...

Great count!

I counted 20 (but there are probably more) BST cats on our bronze fennel. Yesterday, they were in every stage possible. One chrysalis on the fennel and a cat had moved to the adjacent clumping bamboo and was in the J-shape ready to morph.

A Monarch queen laid eggs on the swamp milkweed, but I'm yet to see the cats. I don't know if that big rain washed them away.

I finished the my latest writing assignment (it was for Durham, so I've been over there a lot the last few weeks to check out restaurants, sites, etc.)

Friend of HK said...

The swallowtails in your region are much more colorful than the ones in Hong Kong, so beautiful!

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