Our third anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) of this year eclosed after a winter diapause.
2/28: Despite releasing this individual yesterday, we found it perched in a shaded spot on the ground today unable to fly due to the cool weather so when the sun came out, we placed on a sunny spot and it promptly flew away; below is another photo of it, this time posed on fennel.
2/27: This individual was released; can be seen below posing on Ceanothus
2/26: Another male anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) eclosed today. It is the third to break diapause this year.
Rearing notes for our fifth instar, supernumerary sixth instar, and prepupal eri caterpillars; and eri cocoons (Samia ricini). These are offspring of Europe sourced sibling-paired adults from a previously reared brood and have been reared indoors on citrus (Citrus).
Rearing Notes 2/6/17-2/26/17:
Rearing notes for our umber skippers (Poanes melane). These were found as eggs and reared on Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon).
Rearing Notes 1/28/17-2/25/17:
Because the seasonality of insects is ecologically linked with the seasonality of plants, we record prevernal plant growth to estimate when to expect certain insects and familiarize ourselves with useful Lepidoptera host plants.
2016 was one of the biggest monarch years we had witnessed in a long time - individuals of all stages were seen frequently in every month of the year despite that they should be absent during the spring and summer months. However, during the fall and winter months when they normally are supposed to be quite abundant here, there were actually very few. We found no eggs or larvae on our milkweed when we normally were able to find dozens in previous years.
Strangely, today which is already very late in the season, we found a single fifth instar wandering around our milkweed. We decided to let it be and live a natural life (or death) rather than take it in to rear since there is no risk of predation by paper wasps (Polistes dominula) at this time of year so it should be fine if its made it this far already, unless it has been parasitized by tachnids in which case nothing we can do can save it. It'll probably pupate in a few days anyway so no point rearing.
Deciduous trees in Albany, CA are beginning to show signs of breaking winter dormancy.
We don't usually write about anything other than insects on here (it's an insect blog after all), but since botany and entomology go pretty much hand in hand, it doesn't hurt to talk about plants once in a while. Because most insects are herbivores, the seasonality of their life cycles correlates strongly with the seasonality of plants. Thus, we always make sure to keep a good eye out for when the trees begin to break winter dormancy and plants begin to grow again so we know when to expect certain insects. Here in Albany, CA (and much of the state), the winters are extremely short and relatively warm, and thus trees begin to grow as early as February unlike most other places in the country where you usually have to wait until April or May.
Plum trees are usually the first of the fruit trees around here to bud, opening hundreds of blossoms in the course of a week or two followed by leaf growth. Just a week, our cherry plum tree (Prunus cerasifera) was only just starting to get flower and leaf buds all over its branches, and now it is covered in blossoms and leaf shoots. Once the blossoms fade, we can expect it to be green in a few weeks for our cecropias to feed on.
Some other trees in our backyard that are breaking dormancy are our rose (Rosa sp.) and lilac (Syringa sp.), which had no traces of green two weeks ago. Rose grows quickly and will probably be nice and bushy in a couple weeks. Our lilac tree is quite small and hasn't done very well in past years (it hardly bloomed last year), but this year it looks like it has a lot of buds that are budding and will probably open in the coming weeks.
Our lemon tree (Citrus limon) has been heavily pruned this year despite that citrus trees shouldn't be pruned much, simply because it is a very old tree and was becoming unhealthy so we wanted to reinvigorate it. Citrus trees are tropical and subtropical plants so they grow in response to rainfall changes and not temperature changes, but since this time of year also happens to be the rainy season, you can see the tree is beginning to grow and has several new shoots. Lemon tree shoots typically have a high concentration of anthocyanin which gives them a purple color while most other citrus are just green.
We also have two apple trees (Malus sp.) in our back yard, one of which is quite large and vigorous in the summer while the other is sort of scraggly and only moderately vigorous. Right now both appear dormant with no signs of green, though it is possible that the buds are enlarging but we're not quite sure. Historically, they should start blossoming in March and have leaves by April, so it's still a bit early. However, it has been an especially cold and overcast February this year which may cause they to blossom a few weeks later than usual, but we'll see. Hopefully they will be ready in time for our cecropias which we anticipate to hatch some time in late March.
While pruning our trees today, we were very surprised to find a fifth instar Indian walking stick (Carausius morosus) on Common ivy (Hedera helix). It was intermediate green and brown morph. Though our C. morosus stock was originally started from wild caught specimen six or seven years ago when we were able to find dozens of young walking sticks on Dahlias (Dahlia) every fall, the wild population has seemed to become quite sparse for the past several years as we only ever find a few each year now which is why this was a surprising find.
We found a rough stink bug (Brochymena sp.) that has likely just broken diapause.
These rough stink bug adults show up on our trees every year around late winter and early spring. and we often find their pearly white egg clusters around this time too. We are not positive about the species identification of this individual except that it is in the Brochymena genus, probably either affinis or sulcata based on our region. The adults overwinter in tree bark and come out to lay eggs once the weather warms, so it is very likely that this individual has recently just broken diapause as it has been fairly warm this week. As we are not Hemiptera experts, we do not plan on rearing these.
We have taken our cecropia cocoons (Hyalophora cecropia) out of cold storage in order for them to break diapause.
We plan to rear of cecropia caterpillars starting in April this year, right when spring starts and when the trees are most vigorous. Thus, in order to time this event, we took our eight remaining live cocoons from last summers brood out to break diapause and eclose at the end of this month. We then expect that it will take about a week to get all the pairing and eggs, and another two weeks for the eggs to hatch, at which time spring will begin (March 21). Though spring rearing is definitely too early to be rearing Saturniids in most parts of the country (and this particular H, cecropia stock certainly would not be in flight until several months later in their native New York), here in northern California, the cold season is mild and short meaning it should be warm enough by this time. We plan to use apple (Malus) and plum (Prunus) again this year, and perhaps other host plants if they leaf up soon enough, as these worked quite well last year for the non-diseased portion of the brood. Recently we have been pruning back some of these trees in order to make them more vigorous in preparation for spring and rearing.
Update 2/11: we weighed all eight cocoons to make sure they are all alive and based on mass. they should be since most only lost a few decigrams. Also, the pupa in the 4.6 g cocoon moved around a lot when we weighed it.
Cocoon mass (g): 4.6, 4.9, 5.4, 5.6, 7.1, 7.5, 8.1, 8.2
This timeline is a series of daily posts recording our observations on and experiences with various insects in Albany California and surrounding areas, from 2012-2017. Since we did not publish this site until 2016, posts before that were constructed retroactively. Starting in August 2017, we moved to Ithaca, New York; posts from there on can be viewed at Timeline 2017-present: Ithaca, New York.
August 2017 (49)
July 2017 (121)
June 2017 (79)
May 2017 (77)
April 2017 (91)
March 2017 (35)
February 2017 (12)
January 2017 (10)
December 2016 (12)
November 2016 (26)
October 2016 (49)
September 2016 (84)
August 2016 (94)
July 2016 (99)
June 2016 (53)
May 2016 (21)
April 2016 (4)
January 2016 (1)
August 2015 (3)
July 2015 (3)
June 2015 (2)
June 2014 (3)
May 2014 (1)
April 2014 (3)
March 2014 (3)
December 2013 (2)
November 2013 (2)
October 2013 (5)
September 2013 (11)
August 2013 (15)
July 2013 (9)
June 2013 (5)
May 2013 (4)
April 2013 (3)
March 2013 (2)
February 2013 (3)
January 2013 (2)
December 2012 (2)
November 2012 (1)
October 2012 (2)
September 2012 (2)
August 2012 (5)
July 2012 (1)
June 2012 (1)
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
- Not every species we encounter is necessarily presented on this site, rather a selection of those that were of particular interest to us and that we felt were worth documenting.
- We can't guarantee that all species have been identified accurately, particularly taxa we are not as familiar with.
Battus philenor hirsuta
Coenonympha tullia california
Langia zenzeroides formosana
Orthosia hibisci quenquefasciata
Papilio machaon oregonius
Papilio polyxenes asterius
Samia cynthia advena
Papilio glaucus × Papilio rutulus
Papilio polyxenes asterius × Papilio zelicaon
Araneae (Class: Arachnida)