One of our diapausing pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) pupae recently broken diapause and has now eclosed.
3/22: The pharate chrysalis eclosed as expected into a female, but because the chrysalis had deformities, the butterfly's left wing is misshapen. However, it seems to be somewhat capable of flight, though we'll see when we let it go on a sunny day.
3/21: It looks like number two for this year is on its way now, though this one is slightly deformed on one side from lying flat while still soft after pupation. Hopefully, this won;t cause any deforminites or trouble getting out of the pupa for the buttefly as it is not that severe.
Taking Antheraea polyphemus Cocoons and Eumorpha achemon and Hyles lineata Pupae out of Cold Storage
We took our diapausing polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) cocoons and achemon sphinx (Eumorpha achemon) and white-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata) pupae out of cold storage.
We were initially planning on staggering the times we took all of our species out of cold storage (which we did with the first few), but after we thought about it for awhile we just decided to go ahead and take the remaining species out except Samia cynthia cocoons. Simply put, we'll be leaving for college by August this summer which means we have almost no time to loose if we plan on rearing all of these, plus any new species we get this year. Most host plants look almost ready anyway despite being just March. It'll probably take two months for the pupae to eclose, the moths to pair and lay eggs, and the eggs to hatch. Then it'll be another two months for all the larvae to mature and pupate. So, that's four months for each species meaning if we want them in the pupal stage by August, so now's just about the right time to take them out. We can't afford to wait another month or two. However, we'll hold off on the cynthias for a little longer since those usually grow much faster than a large species like polyphemus.
Our diapausing female Smerinthus ophthalmica pupa eclosed today.
Well, it looks like our suspicions were correct when we noticed the Smerinthus ophthalmica pupa had become loose and soft. At around noon, we checked the container and found a impressive sized grey-from female clinging to the lid. It's forewing length is about 4.2 cm and it has a large, plump abdomen filled with eggs. The entire body color is different from it's mother we reared last summer which was a tan form; the current one is melanic, having grey in place of the tan and dark brown in place of the golden brown - so basically a whole step darker. The father was a grey form as well which seems to be the more common form in general; perhaps a tan father would have increased the chance of tan offspring.
Anyways, we are not quite unsure what to do about this newly eclosed female ophthalmica, since the timing of this eclosion was completely unexpected. Ideally and more reasonably, we would have expected it to eclose a moth later, or maybe May when the wild population is in flight. A temperature increase was likely the culprit in causing this premature eclosion, as there was a slightly warmer week back in February when the rain took a break. However, it is possible that this warmth also caused wild pupae to break diapause as well, but even still, wild pupae develop much slower than indoor kept pupae due to the cold night temperatures, so the wild population probably won't be in flight until at least April. Also, it doesn't help that it will be raining this entire week making calling in a male and pairing almost impossible, even if there are males out there at all. So, though it was always a long shot anyway, it doesn't look like we'll be able to continue this line of ophthalmicas unless by some miracle we actually get a pairing. We put it in a pairing cage anyway and placed it outside just to see what'll happen. If we loose this sock, the only way to reestablish it would be to capture some wild females or somehow by chance find eggs or larvae.
Since this may be the last time we'll ever see this species in a while, we made sure to take plenty of photos to remember it.
Rearing notes for our diapausing Papilio glaucus (eastern tiger swallowtail ) pupa.
Rearing Notes 3/13/17-3/??/17:
The California pipevines (Aristolochia californica) have begun to grow new shoots and flowers, meaning there should be pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) eggs on them soon.
Like most other deciduous plants in our area, the California pipevines up in the hills are beginning to regrow their leaves and flowers as the weather warms. This plant is the sole host of the northern California pipevine swallowtail subspecies, Battus philenor hirsuta, and thus its regrowth is soon followed by the flight of these swallowtails which will lay large egg clusters on the growing shoots of the vine. It is very important that the vine be in a growing state because the butterflies refuse to oviposit on mature leaves, and the young larvae have trouble eating them. In fact, this is one of the prime reasons (the other being diapause) why the numbers of the butterfly decline in late summer when most pipevines cease growth, since the females have no where to lay their eggs on. Thus, spring time is the absolute best time to look for these eggs, as the butterflies will not only have a large flight due to all previous year generations breaking out of diapause, but because the pipevines are in the prime of their growth. Many of the pipevines right now are already covered in leaf buds and new vine shoots, while some are still covered in large masses of pipe-shaped flowers. Once these flowers fall off, those vines will also begin putting on vigorous vegetative growth as well. If the pipevine swallowtails were already in flight now, we're almost certain that these growing shoots would be clobbered with bright orange-red eggs, but we'll probably have to wait a few weeks for that.
While we were up in the hills looking at California pipevines, we also took a quick look at some of the oak (Quercus) and ceanothus (Ceanothus) for any polyphemus (Antheraea polyphemus) or ceanothus moth (Hyalophora euryalus) cocoons, but unsurprisingly we found nothing as these species, especially H. euryalus, seem to have a very sparse distribution around here, and we don't have much expertise in finding wild cocoons in the winter. We also came across a California hop tree (Ptelea crenulata) beginning to regrow which might be useful for some swallowtails and Rothschildia sp. if we get any.
Our fourth anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) of this year eclosed after a winter diapause.
Well, number four of this year eclosed today and it turned out to be female - the first female of this year. Not surprising since males usually take flight first. Unlike the males, the females of this species have a lot more blue on the postdiscal band, and spring individuals have more blue in general.
Has our Smerinthus ophthalmica pupa broken diapause?
It has been about six months since our single Smerinthus ophthalmica larvae pupated into a female diapausing pupa. It has continued to be in diapause ever since, but now we are suspecting it might have broken diapause recently, since the pupa, which is clearly still alive, has dropped down from its original 3.1 at pupation to 2.8 g now, and it not only feels softer now but also has looser abdominal segments (they bend back and forth more easily when gently poked from side to side). These are all typical signs that a pupa is close to eclosion. The most obvious sign would be that the pupa would color up due to the scales gaining pigment, but with such a dark integument and dull adult colors of this species, it is too hard to tell. We'll wait and see in a week or so if this was a false alarm or not. Hopefully, it is, because it looks like it's going to rain this week so no chance of calling any males in if their even out there at all at this time of year (probably too early).
With no better species currently in season yet, we decided to go ahead and collect some of the ever-common Pieris rapae (cabbage white) eggs just to help with the winter boredom.
Well, it's been a long time since we've reared this ridiculously common "pest", but since we don't have anything better to rear these days we thought, why not? This butterfly is one the first ones to be in flight owing to abundant and year-round host availability and its tolerance to cool, moist temperatures. There is pretty much nothing else we can rear right now besides it, and since it is so easy to obtain, all we had to do was take a few minutes at a vegetable garden and we had over a dozen eggs and a neonate - not bad for no effort (though back a four years ago when we reared a whole bunch of these, we were collecting them by the hundreds in one sitting). It really wouldn't even be that bad of a butterfly to rear - its just a nice Pierid, but due to its incredible abundance an range all over the world, it has simply become boring and considered a pest. Nonetheless, it's an easy rear so we'll just casually get these few eggs to adult and be done with. by then the weather will have warmed up enough for other butterflies like Papilio zelicaon.
A previously diapausing Papilio zelicaon (anise swallowtail) pupa has recently broken diapause and is now pharate.
Looks like number four for this year is about to be out. It is a green form this time and appears to be female? (Genital slit is not very distinct on this one). It is interesting since the vast majority of diapausing Papilio zelicaon pupae are the default light brown color regardless of the surface color or texture on which is pupates on. This one and a few others we have are rare exceptions.
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.
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)