Sunday, November 10, 2013

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.

1 comment:

  1. Love that golden zipper! And what about that gold-looking chrysalis in the last photo? How cool is that? Awesome! Now I know what to look for. It is nigh onto winter here in Ohio. I need to find out more info about Ohio butterflies.


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