Monday, October 26, 2015

Compassion Informing Observation: the Butterfly Project

Many of you locals have probably visited or at least heard of the local butterfly guru, Louise Hallberg. She has a history of bringing caterpillars into her bathroom to protect them from the elements. So when Rob recently told me of the latest evolution of his "butterfly project," I thought to myself, perhaps others would be interested in hearing of his efforts. So here is what he has written for your amazement and enjoyment, too.The pictures are taken and provided here by Rob, as well as the text, of course.


With Cathie’s prodding, I am presenting my Swallowtail Butterfly experiment.  I am an observer of nature and its creatures.  Over the years I have watched the Swallowtails on their host plant of fennel.  The caterpillars seemed to be disappearing around mid-term in their development.  The few that did get quite close to maturity would also disappear.  It had to be the birds, so I decided to assist Mother Nature.

My first experiment was to erect a framed netting of the host plant.  I also moved new hatchlings under the cover.  Their development went well, but close to maturity, all would disappear at once.  I decided the Brown Towhee was the culprit because of their ground dwelling nature; they probably entered from underneath the netting, the most vulnerable area.

Next I brought the caterpillars into my sunroom where I kept a small fennel plant.  This seemed to work for a while for I got three caterpillars to the chrysalis stage. This was a bit more rewarding.  All of a sudden these new caterpillars disappeared.  I eventually observed a sparrow feeding on them. 
My new plan was to move the operation into the house.  My incubator became a bouquet of fennel which I picked fresh each day.

This also became a focal point of interest for everyone in the house.  I usually had two to three bouquets going at once with a total of five or six caterpillars on each clump.  I had to keep the mature ones separate from the tiny hatchlings or else they disappeared; I could only image their fate.

I inserted several 18 inch long plant stakes around the bouquets for the mature caterpillars to crawl up on to form their chrysalis.

Most cooperated but I did have a few escapees, most of which I easily found, but several are still in the house somewhere.

Once the chrysalis had formed on the plant stakes, I moved them to another location, forming now a stake bouquet.  The hatching of the cocoons was very thrilling.  

It took a half hour for the butterfly to fully expand and dry and another half hour before flying.

The butterflies always hatched in the morning and the hour of emergence gave me time to get them outside.  The few that I missed always flew to the light so I found them at the nearest window. They did not want to fly until they were in the sun.

The caterpillars took two weeks to reach maturity and form the chrysalis.  It was usually another eighteen days before they emerged as butterflies.  It was always a wonder to imagine how much butterfly could emerge from such a small cocoon.  This was truly the ultimate wonder.

I now have fourteen chrysalises that have not hatched.  The last one emerged in early August.  Now I have a new quandary; they must winter in the chrysalis stage.  Their host plant is in decline and unproductive so there is no more time for another life cycle.  Only the Monarchs migrate and winter in their adult stage.  Temperature cannot be the trigger for hatching for fall is usually the warmest time of the year.  I am to conclude that the lengthening daylight of spring has to be the activator for the butterfly to emerge.  I should not store the chrysalis in a closet for the winter as they will need exposure to daylight.  Proceeding on this premise, I am extremely excited to see what happens this coming spring.  Will some or all hatch?

Rob Bartlett has co-authored Balanced Destiny and more recently authored The Awakening of a Wizard. He also is excellent at trimming my hair to take advantage of the curliness that has appeared with the graying. Both Rob
and I are "green wood Monkeys" so I love visiting with him every few months as he takes excellent care of trimming my hair.

Thank you, Rob, for sharing your "Butterfly Project"

1 comment:

  1. An email from locals: "AMAZING!! Absolutely intriguing and so appreciated.. Thank you abundantly for sharing Rob's gracious and important work with our precious butterflies.. Very inspiring! Look forward to re visiting & sharing with others! Thank you so much for sharing such passionate projects!
    Much GRATITUDE ... Jason & Vickie"