Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Plan Tiger Butterfly Laid Eggs

This time I was having a dose of my post-breakfast coffee when I went near the pond.  I happened to observe the Plain Tiger fluttering about, sitting on a plant for a second and changing its place to other spots, but it was coming often to the Asclepias plants where quite a few of these had emerged from the chrysalis. Now the Asclepias plants - I have four young plants - are throwing up new leaves after those caterpillars completely devoured all the leaves. 

I noticed that this Plain Tiger when it was sitting on the edge of leaves, it was curling its abdomen and touching the undersides with the tip.   I thought it must be laying eggs.

I went closer and examined one such leaf.  Lo and behold!  There was a tiny tiny egg.  

I carefully checked other leaves and there were many such tiny creamish eggs!  I saw it laying one on the stem.

That is the egg. 

The tiny new caterpillars that will come out will know food will be right there! New leaves are appearing.  They leave the eggs where food for the caterpillars will be available very close as they will be quite tiny.  

This is of course the female butterfly.  Note the 3 dark spots clearly visible here.  The male will have one more spot. See next picture of a male just emerged.

Another shot of  that female taking a pause between egg-laying flights. By this time, I had fully emptied my coffee.

I'll be watching the tiny eggs. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Common Jezebel Butterfly

I was familiar with the Common Jezebel since a few years.   When it flutters high near the tiny flowers up on our tall Fiddlewood Tree, I can recognize this.  It neither comes down much nor sits anywhere on smaller flowering plants closer to the ground, at least as far as I have observed in the last 5-6 years.  So I had to content with long shots.

Remember to click on pictures to get enlarged views.

This was really high up, zoomed to the camera's max.  So is the picture below.  Both shots of Fiddlewood flowers.  They love its nectar and the flowers are very fragrant.

On 23.11.2007, I saw one just above my eye level resting on a big leaf of the Almond Tree.  This was the first time I was getting a close look. And I had the camera on hand.  Slowly, slowly I approached it closer.  It stayed still.  I was like a thief looking to rob some macro photo-shoots!   I kept clicking lest it should fly, until my camera lens was as close as two inches!   I wondered why it was so still!  A little while later, I guessed that it must have become a butterfly just then after I saw [by enlarging the shot I took up close, on camera playback] the fresh matt-finish wings getting to dry.  This was the shot.

I had shared with Dave's Garden one more shot that I cropped, showing only the wing colours and pattern.  A friend, very impressed, by name Nancy saw my posting.   Soon, I was sending her a couple of good resolution photos because she wanted to use one of the pictures as a special greeting card.  She was kind enough to print and send me 4 of them with different colour backgrounds. Here is one:

This post is dedicated to Nancy Polanski, because the Common Jezebel always reminds me of her beautiful gesture and greeting card.  

Let us come to the present now.


Four days ago, i.e., on the morning of 21.11.2013, I went to the stone bench beside the pond, with coffee in hand as is my wont,.  This magnificent butterfly was on the leaf of Jaquemontia growing on the arch next to the pond.  As I sat, it was in level to my shoulder.  So I now knew - from the Plain Tiger experience - that this was another newly emerged butterfly if it were to sit still like that and that too so near to ground level.  This time, I had to run in and return with the camera.  What followed for the next 45 minutes was joy.  My coffee got cold mid way.  

This was where I spotted it.

There was one empty chrysalis seen towards the left here but that was of the Plain Tiger. I was to discover its chrysalis the next day. I wanted to have close shots but there were shadows where it was. So I held a dry leaf at its feet.  It crawled up on it.  I carried it slowly and held it up in sunlight.  I allowed it to crawl on to an Agave leaf.  But it could not hold on.  It fell down from there after I took a few quick shots.  I suddenly remembered Beverly [from the post on Plain Tiger].  She had written that these will need to 'hang' down in which position fluid from the abdomen runs freely into the wings and make it rigid for flight.   I also observed later that its feet are hook-like at the tip to enable them to hang and grip. 

I now had brought out the Canon with the 250mm lens also, to get a few shots with a background like this:

I picked the fallen Jezebel with my finger.  It crawled up and then transferred to a blade of grass. 

I took a macro shot of its face also, with the camera lens almost touching the antenna.

I took shots in all sort of lighting while I made sure it stayed face up.  It flew and sat on the gate as if to test its wings.

Newly painted gate, retains its sheen!

Picked it up on the grass again.  This time, for a back-lit shot of the wing, held against the sun.

Newly opened wings will appear like freshly pressed shirts opened from its folded state and will have pronounced mat finish.  The latter is not noticeable to the naked eye.   Thanks to technology we are able to see so much beyond the eye's ability.  So do not forget to click on the picture below.

I wished it good luck and good bye and went my way, leaving it safe and comfortable on some plant.

Next morning, I went back to the place where I had found it, in search of its empty chrysalis.  There it was, just where it lay hung.  It was beneath the leaf.  Before that, I had googled to see how it looked.  So I had an idea. Here it is:

Thank you Nancy and Beverly.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Plain Tiger Butterfly Eclosion

The caterpillar had made a chrysalis on the morning of 6th November, which I posted in the previous entry.  
[Click on the pictures to take a magnified view]

On 13th morning, I was in for a big surprise.  Surprise, only because I could not properly identify the caterpillar from its pattern and also had got misled by the swarm of Blue Tigers.  That had led me to think only of Blue Tigers!  Again, I was sipping my coffee near the pond.  The same chrysalis which was green the previous evening was now this: 

A dramatic metamorphosis overnight!  All the while I had thought it was of a Blue Tiger.

When such a drastic change had taken overnight, I knew it would emerge sooner than later.  Four caterpillars had pupated last week.  And all four had turned brown now.  Leaving the coffee on the bench, I rushed in to bring the camera.  In just two minutes........ this!

One fellow had already emerged in such quick time!!  It was in fact, the Plain Tiger and not the Blue Tiger.  I was ready for the next one which appeared to emerge any moment. I had quickly set up the tripod on the stone bench and it could be photographed in 'macro' at a height of about 9 inches.  I was still sipping coffee while watching the chrysalis closely for any movement inside.  

I was ready for live action!  I clicked pictures every few seconds as action happened and in just ten minutes it had almost opened up its wings and was ready to start flying. The first one could not grip the wall and had fallen down.  I had carefully made it to climb on to a dry leaf and left it safe.  I did the same to this one, before it fell off the wall.

Here is the series of shots stringed together.  [Click here]

Since it is a weekday, I had to leave for work.  So, I went away after I had left the two new butterflies safely on the Jaquemontia plant [vine] a few inches from where they had emerged. When I arrived for lunch, I saw those two fluttering above the pond and nearby plants.  In the evening, I could see two out of the four that had emerged happily flying about, leaving the empty, transparent chrysalis.  

It was nearly dark when I took these pictures using flash.

There are at least 3 more to watch, on the spider plant.  They should emerge this weekend.  This was the first time I've watched through stages from caterpillar to pupa to butterfly.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Plain Tiger Caterpillar Pupates

This is almost a continuation of my previous post on PlainTiger Butterfly Caterpillars.  Today being a Sunday, I thought of 'catching some action' of how these caterpillars go into chrysalis.  While sipping my morning coffee near the pond, as is the habit, I looked for these caterpillars. A few were still competing for their food as the Asclepias plants have been chewed away to such an extent that only stems are left to be chewed.  Some caterpillars had fulfilled their food needs and were getting ready to pupate. I saw one already in the 'J' position.  I thought it would take an hour or two for it go into chrysalis. So I went in to do some usual Sunday chores.  

When I was ready with breakfast, it was still in the 'J'.  So I went in to do some more work, deciding to visit this every 10-15 minutes. After a couple of such visits, I was shocked to see it already gone to chrysalis!  It was such a short time.  

So I looked around if there were some more caterpillars getting ready.  Yesterday I had seen one crawling on the Spider Plant leaf which I have kept in a pot very close to the Asclepias plants. I guessed they might have fixed themselves underneath as I have now known they look for some horizontal things.  I was right.  When I bent low to look underneath, I found three in the 'J' position!! 

I did not want to miss the action which I now knew would be lasting a few minutes.  I wanted to be there all the while. So I removed the pot and placed it on the concrete table close to it, higher, so that I could also see and photograph it.  

I went in quickly and set things up for the shoot.  

And sat in the 'ready' to watch and catch the action whenever that happened.  I knew it would not be too long, going by the previous observation.

The two others that pupated just a few minutes ago and escaped me are seen in this picture. So I was able to focus on the one.  I could see some movement every few seconds to push silk out.  Any moment there would be 'action' that I waited for.  Very soon, I saw the 'J' straighten out.  I knew now this was the moment. 

Every few seconds I clicked the camera sitting there watching it.  See the time lapse images I have posted online, here:

The time duration on the text slides was okay when I made it on Picasa and it played well.  But online, it is too short.  Sorry about it. You may have to pause to see what it reads.  View full screen as I have also recorded the time at the bottom and see how quickly this magic happened. 
It would take about 10-12 days for the 'eclosion' - emergence of a new butterfly from its chrysalis. This is also a word I came to know from Beverly.  I have not been able to spot their eggs and the tiny caterpillars emerging, happening in an extremely small scale.  Anyway, I hope the eclosion happens on a holiday. 

Plain Tiger Butterfly multiplies

In October, there was a swarm of Blue Tiger Butterflies crossing the Yarden and many stopping by for nectar on the Fiddlewood tree and other plants.  Thousands of them were migrating to somewhere, from east to west. But there were other varieties also in countable numbers.

The Asclepias plants are near my pond.  It is known to be a butterfly plant. I had seen a few rest on these young plants.  One of the plants was flowering for the first time and some tigers were seen on these. That was in early October.

After my return in late October from a 10-day tour to Dehra Dun in North India, the sight of tiny striped caterpillars on the four Asclepias plants was a very pleasing one.  Pictured left.

Dave's Garden in the meantime had given me another friend Beverly who lives in Mexico.  This elderly lady is an avid gardener with a great love for butterflies. So before the Blue Tiger swarm in October, Beverly had shared quite a bit of information on how she tends to the caterpillars, takes care of their chrysalises and watches young and fresh butterflies emerge [it is called 'eclosing'] and fly away from her small garden.  The worry was Bulbuls and Tailorbirds which can predate caterpillars.  But Beverly wrote that the caterpillars would taste nasty to them because of the plant which is eaten by them... this is Nature's way of protection.

They were small caterpillars, but in just 2-3 days, they grew fat devouring those leaves and pooping and soon I found a few of them leaving the plant and crawling up the wall.  They were slow, sleepy and 'full'.  Beverly's mails had helped me know what they were up to now.  They were soon to go into a chrysalis because they were now attaching themselves in the 'J' position. Without Beverly's exchange, I would have been less prepared to watch this.

I thought it would take a long while when I left for work.  When I returned home that evening, I found 4 chrysalises at almost where I had seen them in the 'J'.  One was green, lovely green.  What a change in just a few hours! 

This was in a different colour.  Another mail from Beverly the next day revealed that some of them tries to merge with the background. 
The 'box' appears as if its lid is closed by a golden zipper.
The next day, I found two fallen to the ground, but those were not the ones already on the wall. One was this I had seen the previous evening and had doubted it.
From a most recent mail from Beverly I had observed that she had tied a chrysalis with a thread. I had asked about it.  Sewing thread to the rescue as I had to adapt this method.

When the caterpillars finished the leaves, they resorted to munching off the stems of Asclepia and even the 3-4 seed pods!!  They seemed to be short of food as they feed on selective plants.  If my friend Dee had not sent me the Asclepias seed, if I had not grown it, if I had not got in contact with Beverly thereafter, the Blue Tigers would have left without leaving their eggs on the plant.  Today, the four plants are bereft of leaves and even stems have been chewed down as you see here.  Wait till I post the updates.
Though I had noticed one or two chrysalises in my Yarden some years ago, I had not observed them as closely as I did now.  The garden was wild before all the changes that took place and there was no way I could keep track on activities of the little beings on their host plants. I used to wonder why the Tabernaemontana plant always suffered with curled leaves caused by some moth caterpillars. I did not know it was a host plant to a certain variety of moth especially.  Now with inspiration and knowledge shared by Beverly, I no longer feel bad about leaves being 'used up' by the caterpillars.  I am happy to be providing their food for their growth and being part of their life cycles!
The following are pictures from 2009. 

If you have read this post, you must visit my next post.