Friday, September 04, 2009

Late Summer Surprises

Back in the late spring and early summer, we wished we had joined in the search for monarch caterpillars. They were everywhere in our lives - just not at our house! Little Charlie got to see one emerge from its chrysalis at school, and we looked forward to stories from friends who were keeping caterpillars at home.

What a surprise to have a caterpillar in our house now! It's late in the season for black swallowtails, but Stripey 2 is soldiering on, now as a pupa in his chrysalis. He hung on his stick for a little more than a day before shedding his skin one last time while no one was watching and settling inside his chrysalis to become a butterfly.

The white silken thread that helps hold him to the stick is called a "girdle" - it actually wraps around him like a little sling. The websites I've read disagree about whether these caterpillars make a chrysalis that resembles the stick on which they hang, but Stripey 2 appears to have done just that!

Outside the guestroom window, other late summer surprises are appearing. A gray hairstreak was visiting our Mexican heather.

Another impatiens has finally decided to begin growing and blooming.

The snapdragons are blooming again, too. I wanted to try getting a picture that would take in the whole border in front of the house, one that would show the little riot of colors that makes me smile every time I pull in the driveway. After I snapped this shot, I looked at it on the camera's little you see what I see?

Here's a closer look at those snapdragons.

We were so surprised to see eight common buckeye caterpillars happily munching away on my poor little snapdragons! They're all different sizes - two are quite large, and one is adorably small.

Common buckeyes lay eggs one at a time on separate leaves, so who knows how many more might be waiting to hatch! When they're ready to make a chrysalis they'll hang in a "j" position on a stick (we propped a few up beside the flowers, just in case) and then form their chrysalis so that it blends in with their surroundings.

We watched them crawl and eat for a long time before we went back inside. I don't think we'll bring them in - their favorite food is snapdragons, and I suspect the snapdragons wouldn't stay yummy for long if I pulled them out of the ground. So we'll trust Mother Nature to take care of these friends, and hope that there are more happy surprises in store for us and them as they grow!

I suppose I must say goodbye, though, to my snapdragons, several of which are apparently the reasons why the caterpillars have grown as big as they are...


Julie Nolte Owen said...

Love it. Those caterpillars look like aliens!

Jen said...

Only a mother could love them! The colors are pretty, though. The pictures look wonderful on my computer, but I've noticed that they're a little more muted on blogger. All eight caterpillars are still there (we've already gone out to visit with them!) eating, eating, eating...