We went to Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley, California for one last time before leaving.
It has been a while since we stepped foot into Tilden, but we decided to go today because we only have a few days left. At this time of year, there aren't really any swallowtails around of any species in flight but to our surprise, we did still find a few pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) caterpillars on the pipevine (Aristolochia californica) growing at the Nature Area's butterfly garden. Last year, they were basically completely gone by this time. It seems that only a few of them ever emerge to make the flight in August; the overwhelming majority of the larvae we reared in the Spring went into diapause. Admittedly, the pipevine at the garden was in very good condition with lots of new growth, perhaps after suffering from disease in the Spring that got it off to a late start, unlike the stuff at Albany Hill which also started growing earlier and got larvae earlier.
After the garden, we went down a trail. There is a lake there, so a lot of the grass was still somewhat green and there is willow (Salix) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioca). Though not nearly as common as they were a few months ago here, we did across a western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) still flying this late into the season. We also found a satyr comma (Polygonia satyrus), but there was nothing on the nettles on the trail or at the garden (and strangely, no red admirals [Vanessa atalanta] either).
After the lake, things get a lot more dry and it starts looking like a typical California landscape -- yellow grass everywhere with tons of tiny prairie butterflies hopping around. There were perhaps hundreds of blue hairstreaks there courting, nectaring, and just going about their business. They were probably all acmon blues (Plebejus acmon). There is also a lot of thistle (Asteraceae) in that particular area with very obvious frass filled silk nests by painted lady (Vanessa cardui) larvae, but we could not actually find any larvae (they must have already pupated).
A little past this segment, there starts to be less grass and more trees consisting mostly of live oaks (Quercus) and a few California buckeyes (Aesculus californica) and pines (Pinus). Here, the dominate species were California ringlets (Coenonympha tullia california) as well as some mylitta and field crescents (Phyciodes mylitta, pulchella) which were courting. There must have been a hundred of all of these too.
On the way back, we past the lake again. There is a bridge there, but the water underneath it has apparently all dried up. The area is shaded with lots of green trees that we don't know, so no leps.
After that, we hurried to the Tilden botanical garden which closes at 5 PM. Most of the pipevine there is in atrocious condition, about the same level as the pipevine at Albany Hill, except for the stuff growing right next the water which looked almost as good as Spring. There was nothing flying there whatsoever, but it was still a nice chance to explore some paths that we hadn't walked before.
We returned to Tilden Regional Park (Berkeley, CA) today and found more pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) eggs as well as some young caterpillars.
Just yesterday when we went to Tilden, we found an insane amount of pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) eggs (172 over 10 ten clusters to be exact) and observed dozens of butterflies--both males and gravid females--after only a short search so we anticipated that we would be able to find a hefty amount more if we returned today. Checking areas on the pipevine (Aristolochia californica) that we hadn't previously checked very well, we quickly managed to find a handful more egg clusters.
But what really surprised us was when we started checking some of the very small, isolated plants growing in full sun away from the main stand. These plants weren't doing particularly well in the full sunshine (it was very hot), especially since the vine is a riparian shade plant, but for some reason the female pipevine swallowtails must have loved them because we were finding young larvae left and right only on these! Truly, almost every little plant seemed to have a few caterpillars on them, ranging from mature first instars to third instars, and there were also a number of egg clusters too. As host plant specialists and vine (not tree) feeders, these caterpillars have a very fast growth rate (especially with the heat we have been seeing this past week) so we suspected that they were either not here or still eggs during the last time we had come which is why we probably missed them despite probably briefly looking at these plants then as well.
In total, we counted over 70 individuals. As for eggs, we found a total of 10 egg clusters again but the total was only 159. The clusters this time were generally smaller than yesterday's with the largest cluster being 23 (yesterday's largest were 27 and 24). The grand total is now 353 eggs over 22 clusters for an average clutch size of about 16 eggs which is quite large.
Pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) eggs are now pouring in in huge numbers from the spring flight.
Yesterday we had an exciting moment when we found our first pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) eggs of the year at Albany Hill. Today we were blown away when we went to Tilden Regional Park.
Immediately stepping onto the scene. we were warmly welcomed by a whirl of black figures fluttering back and forth across nectar flowers like sage and in the background. On our last two trips two and four weeks ago, we had also seen a number of pipevine swallowtails flying around but by the time we got the the pipevine (Aristolochia californica) we knew things were quite different. There were an absurd amount of butterflies--at least a dozen or two--and we soon became aware that there were a number of distinctive females flying about the pipevine. They behaved by constantly flying about the pipevine, landing and coming in contact with the new shoots, investigate by crawling around and drumming their feet (where chemical receptors are in highest concentrations) and then fling off to test another spot.
At first we were slow to realize just how many eggs must have been laid or were being laid when we were there. It took us a while before we found our first two egg clusters which were located on the same small vine growing on the ground. We even found an empty chrysalis directly on one of the vines. But soon, we were finding clusters left and right, almost all of which were located on the relatively healthy stems near the ground of near the tops of the climbing vines. The eggs were of all different developmental stages.
In total, we counted a whopping 172 eggs over 10 clusters (27,24, 20, 20, 17, 16, 14, 14, 9, 5 with 6 that fell off that were most likely from the cluster of 17). We were quite surprised at how large some of these clutches were, considering that we never found any that even had up to 20 eggs last year and most sources report that they typically lay between 10-20 eggs together. The northern California species hirsuta supposedly does lay in greater numbers than the nominate species but 27 is really a lot considering the gravid females probably carry less than a hundred eggs at a given time! Here are photos of each cluster:
Even though we did find a ridiculous amount of eggs already thanks to the fact that they were conveniently laid in such large clusters, we are certain that we didn't get nearly all of them. In fact, in one of the pictures that was taken of a female in flight you can see a leaf containing a small cluster of eggs on it if zoomed in. We didn't even realize this at the time but the cluster seemed unfinished (there are only 7 eggs visible in the picture) and the female was probably in the process of laying these eggs!
Certainly if we were to go back another day we would find these eggs that we missed. We would probably also find that an incredible amount more would have been laid by then, if even that day is tomorrow. The place is now swarmed with butterflies as the spring flight has truly begun. We are 100% sure that the last time we came here there had not yet been eggs. Given that Albany Hill also started to receive eggs right now, the time that they decided to begin is probably no coincidence and is actually according to schedule and that our previous trips were most likely actually too early despite observing the butterflies.
This schedule corresponds with what we were able to observe last tear which were (only) mature caterpillars and fresh chrysalises in mid June. Assuming they take about a month or so to grow, this would align perfectly to when the eggs could have been laid (late April to mid May). With this information, it can be concluded with a certain level of confidence that these pipevines swallowtails are bivoltine with two distinct broods (the second one may be partial because first brood chrysalises can still go into diapause) with the first starting in early May and the second in late June.
In this post, we record the butterflies that we observed at Tilden Regional Park (Berkeley, CA) around the Little Farm and Jewel Lake.
Today we took a short hike in Tilden Regional Park until we were just past Jewel Lake. There, we witnessed a completely different selection of butterflies than what we saw last summer in July. The first thing we saw was west coast ladies (Vanessa annabella) and painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) which seem to be in large numbers during this time. These were mostly flying around tall grasses and nectaring. We also saw a male sara orangetip (Anthocharis sara), which is a species that we have never seen before. This is probably one of the only times that we have seen a pierid around here besides the cabbage white (Pieris rapae) which we also saw on the way back. Also out of random chance, we also found a mylitta crescent (Phyciodes mylitta) and something that we cannot identify but looks vaguely like a some sort of Lycaenid. Both were flying among dead grasses and little weedy nectar plants away from the creek.
We also observed one or two western tiger swallowtails (Papilio rutulus). One was around the butterfly garden which is right beside the creek while the other one (it could have been the same one) was flying along the creek past Jewel Lake. They flew by too quickly to distinguish either by physical characteristics or by behavior whether they were male or female. Despite not seeing any eggs, we also saw a single pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) near pipevine, though we also could not tell if it was a male or female.
While trying to find pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) eggs in the Berkeley Hills (Berkeley, California), we saw several of the adults flying or nectaring.
We've been checking our local pipevines (Aristolochia californica) almost weekly for over a month now for pipevine swallowtail eggs but can't find a single one. The vines have already grown huge and are full of vigorous shoots great for eggs to be laid on. and yet there are still none. It's strange since the butterflies have clearly been in flight for at least a month now as we have seen many over the weeks. Today while up in the Berkeley Hills, we saw several and managed to get several shots of one nectaring on sage (Salvia sp.). We didn't bother catching it even though we had a net since it was male based on the blue hind wings. We did get quite close to it and boy was the butterfly huge - far larger than anything we've reared. They probably thrive and get much larger out here in the wild on the live vigorous pipevine rather than on the wilted cuttings we feed them in captive.
Today we decided to go to Tilden Regional Park (Berkeley, CA) during butterfly hours and found a California Sister (Adelpha californica).
California Sisters (Adelpha californica) are extremely common butterflies in their range. They exclusively inhabit oak woodlands, which provide a food source for the larvae which feed on live oaks (Quercus). They especially prefer canyon type areas with water sources. Therefore it is not a surprise that Tilden Park is filled with them; every time we have come in the afternoon they have been there (we saw one in June, described in this post).
Today we saw a male California Sister guarding territory. Because the California Sister is Batesian (possibly Mullerian) mimic of the related Lorquin's Admiral (Leminitis lorquini) which also occurs in its range, it can be hard to distinguish between the two. The Lorquin's Admiral tends to be smaller and the underside of the forewings look quite different. Upon taking a few photos of our encounter, it was quite clear that is was a California Sister and not a Lorquin's Admiral. Moreover, the Lorquin's Admiral tends to be less common and the caterpillar feed on completely different things (much more typical of admirals [Limenitidinae]) such as Prunus, willow (Salix), and poplar (Populus) of which only willow is found at Tilden in limited amounts.
Because birds tend to avoid these butterflies, they are not afraid to fly conspicuously. When we approached the male, it simply glided about and flew back to its perch no matter how we disturbed it. We could have easily caught it had we brought a net, but it wouldn't be much use to us since it was a male. At the same time, the female Admirals are some of the hardest to get to lay eggs in captivity. We just hope that one day we might directly find some their caterpillars.
In just two hours on our hike at Tilden Regional Park (Berkeley, CA) encountered at least 8 different species of Lepidoptera including the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus), Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), California Sister (Adelpha californica) Painted Lady (Vanessa cadui), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) and the Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon).
As you have probably read in our other recent posts (here, here, and here), we went to hike on one of the many trails at Tilden Regional Park today because we have just received our brand new butterfly net. As an overview, Tilden -- like much of this part of California -- is basically a dry woodland (lots of trees and dried grass) but with some creeks to provide riparian habitat which some species prefer. Now we'll cut to the chase and just discuss some of the butterflies we today.
When we first got to Tilden, we saw a Painted Lady (Vanessa cadui) flying around some Redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) and bramble (Rubus ursinus). It was flying too fast to catch, but we did end up finding two Painted Lady caterpillars on milk thistle (Silybum marianum) later, when we actually started on one of the trails. A common species, yes, but not especially around here with the smaller West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella) usually dominating the scene.
Before we got onto the trail, we first went to check out Tilden's butterfly garden. The naturalists at Tilden are pretty smart and they have some legitimate butterfly experts working there so the garden was pretty good. It has plenty of excellent butterfly nectar sources (the full list can be seen on their brochure) and some caterpillar host plants as well. When we got there, we saw two Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor) around the California Pipevine (Aristolochia californica) but we must have startled them because they quickly flew up into the trees to roost. We also saw a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) flying around the area but, like the Painted Lady, it was just too quick of a flyer (they move in quick fluttering spurts instead of easy glides like some swallowtails and Monarchs [Danaus plexippus]).
When we finally arrived on the trail, the first butterfly we saw were Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia) all along the dead grasses, sunning themselves in the hot mid-afternoon sun. They were probably all males since the females of the species rarely show themselves unless they are around the host plant laying eggs, but we went for it anyway and caught five out of more than ten that we saw that day. We have never even seen the eggs or caterpillars of this species in real life despite them being so extremely common in dry, open areas like this (good examples are Albany Hill and the Ohlone Greenway) where there is an abundance of plantain (Plantago, a potential host plant). The second most common butterfly around these places is definitely the introduced pest, the Cabbage White (Pieris rapae), and you can bet that we saw plenty of those as well.
In the same little clearing where we saw our first Buckeyes, we also saw a majestic Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) gliding along the tops of some Eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus). But it was just too fast and too high up for us to even think about catching it. By the end of the two hours, we had seen at least three or so of them and weren't able to catch a single one.
While we were catching the Buckeyes, we also happened to step into a little patch of dead grasses where there were tons of Acmon Blues (Plejebus acmon) chasing each other around in aerial battles. We didn't try to catch these and they were probably all males as well anyway by this behavior. However, they were the only one of the seven identified butterflies we saw today (there were a bunch of other little gossamer-winged butterflies [Lycaenidae] and other brush-footed butterflies [Nymphalidae] like checkerspots but we didn't get a long enough look to identify them) that we got pictures of since they actually stopped long enough on the ground.
The last butterfly we saw today was the California Sister (Adelpha californica). Like all of the other species, they are not uncommon around here but this was our first time really seeing one up close. It stopped to nectar for a very long time but we weren't able to catch it or take any good photos because it was too far into the vegetation and we would have to cross a strip of spiky bramble to reach it.
In conclusion, it was a great day for butterfly sightseeing. Lots of beautiful species that we don't often encounter in the city. If only we could have caught a few and gotten pictures of them all. Perhaps next time. . .
Since we have our handy new butterfly net, we decided to go visit a few places to try to catch the Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus). Last time we saw them at Albany Hill (Albany, CA) but this time we went to Tilden Regional Park (Berkeley, CA).
This entire year we have just been chasing and chasing Albany's largest swallowtail: the majestic Western Tiger (Papilio rutulus). We first encountered them in 2012 when we found a caterpillar in our back yard that turned out to have been parasitized. After that, we didn't have much luck until last year (2015) when we raised two caterpillars to chrysalis after we saw a butterfly laying the eggs on our plum tree (Prunus). This year, we were determined to catch a few more caterpillars or eggs, but this proved pretty much impossible without actually witnessing the butterfly lay the eggs to give you a hint to where they are since they are almost always up in the tree tops (not to mention their host plants are extremely common here, so there is no way of telling which tree to even look!). The only solution that we saw was to catch a live female and get her to lay eggs for us (see Lepidoptera Rearing Guide for more information).
The first step was to figure out where to even locate live females. In previous years, the butterflies seemed extremely rare all together in the city. This year it seems that they are a bit more common and we have seen several of them in May and June in the city, but weren't able to catch any of them since we didn't have a net. On 6/27, we decided to head out to Albany Hill where we predicted they would be more common since it is in a riparian area (next to Cerrito creek), their natural habitat. We were absolutely right and in one day we were able to see two of them flying around the bottom of the mountain. Alas, we didn't have a net then either. . .
But now we do. On 7/8, we received our new butterfly net and have already put it to good by catching a Gulf Fritillary (Augraulis vanillae) and an Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon). We are planning on returning to Albany Hill for sure, but for today we needed to pick leaves for our Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor) which is why we went to Tilden around 2 PM today. Tilden is a typical regional park in California -- it is basically a (very) dry woodland habitat. But it does have several creeks to provide riparian corridors for the Western Tigers. We just hoped that they were still flying since it is already July and we are not too keen on as to when their flights are and how many broods they have in our region exactly (we are guessing they are at least bivoltine).
When we first starting hiking on one of the trails in search of them, we immediately saw one flying around a small clearing with Eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus) but it was too high up for us to catch. Then, after hiking and searching for almost two hours, we were able to see a handful more of them also flying up in the trees. (At least three or more, assuming that they weren't all the same one.) But they all flew too fast and too high for us to try to catch them. Not to mention that they could very well be males patrolling the mountainside for females.
But while we were trying to search for them, we did learn something interesting: Western Tigers are most certainly dead leaf mimics. Most warm colored butterflies (yellow, orange, red, etc.) are either some kind of mimics or aposematic as in the Monarch. A lot of people wonder why more butterflies aren't green (to match the plants) or blue (to match the sky), but the simple answer is that camouflage can't work for butterflies since they are always moving. A better solution is to mimic the fall of a dead leaf (yellow, orange, red, brown, etc.) by fluttering in a certain way; Western Tigers are yellow and like to swoop and glide from high to low with momentary flutters, very much like the yellow Eucalyptus leaves that kept fluttering to the ground during our hike. It certainly tricked us several time!
In the end, we gave up because it was getting too late and all the butterflies would probably start roosting soon anyway. But it was certainly still worth the trip though because we saw so many other butterflies and now know where else to look for the Western Tigers for future expeditions. Perhaps if we keep trying, then one day. . .
As we were looking for Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus Philenor) at Tilden Regional Park, Berkeley, CA, we realized how critical it was for the species to have new pipevine (Aristolochia) shoots available to lay their eggs on and for the newborns to eat.
It is probably a well-known fact that healthy, tender foliage is more attractive to most adult Lepidoptera, particularly butterflies, and is more appealing for them to lay eggs on. Anybody who is willing to take the time to search for eggs or caterpillars will soon realize that one of the best strategies to maximize efficiency is to first look for them on younger plants or on the new growth.
However, this preference for new growth varies from species to species and is slightly more complex then it seems when considering that most plants only exhibit new growth during a certain time of the year. In particular, Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) females are notoriously picky with the egg-laying sites, probably because it lays them in relatively large clusters as opposed to singly, and therefore must put extra care in ensuring that it does not jeopardize the future of a very large number of its offspring with one wrong move. Even more so with our "hairy" Californian subspecies hirsuta which is known to lay larger clusters of eggs, on average, than the species. The females may spend hours circling a potential egg-laying site before deciding on the best location to deposit her eggs. And the worst part is that she will only ever lay eggs of new shoots tips or leaves of their beloved Pipevine no matter how large or robust the vine itself may be or how risky it may be to the future of the species (We can testify to this as all 18 egg clusters we have encountered this year have been laid on new growth.). The dilemma here is that Pipevine, at least the single variety utilized in our region Aristolochia californica, only proliferates during the spring to early summer. Now, one would think that a simple solution to this would for the Pipevine Swallowtails to simply enter pupal diapause once new growth ceases in the summer months. But that is clearly not the case as they can actually be seen in flight well into the fall and continue to have many reproductive events months after new growth should have dissapeared. How is this possible?
Well, to tell the truth, not all spring and early-summer generation pupa emerge to continue breeding; many of them do, in fact, enter diapause until the following spring where there is a massive flight. The choice to diapause and diapause length is seemingly random (not controlled by photoperiod as it is in many species) with some pupa emerging normally in two to three weeks after pupation, some emerging later in the season of the same year in a rather staggered fashion, and the rest diaupausing through the entire winter until the spring flight mentioned before. Through this strange regulation of the life cycle, the Pipevine Swallowtails can ensure that even if there happens not to be any new shoots on which to breed later in the season, the entire population doesn't simply collapse and that there will be at least some survivors of the generation that will breed next spring. Yes, it is pretty unstable, but it must work to some extent otherwise they would never have evolved to be like this and would probably be extinct by now.
In addition, new Pipevine growth after early summer is not impossible. Like most plants, especially fast growing vines, Pipevine will regenerate itself rapidly should it be cut down or burned. Because this is so rare, any new growth during this time after early summer is likely to be utterly clobbered in eggs. In fact, unlike most species, Pipevine Swallowtails actually seemed to be encouraged to lay eggs where there are already rather then being deterred by the competition.
So when we went down to Tilden Regional Park today, we brought a pair of scissors so that we could cut the old shoots off the Pipevines in order to stimulate regeneration. The pipevines there actually already have a reasonable amount of relatively new shoots because it is not especially late in the season (hence the fact that virtually of the egg clusters we have collected have been from here), but a little extra help for the butterflies couldn't hurt. On the other hand, the pipevine growing at Canyon Trail Park has not a trace of new growth; despite capturing a female butterfly there, we have yet to find a single cluster of eggs. The next time we visit, we are sure to also bring scissors and cut down every shoot we see.
Over the past ten days since we found our
We first found the California or Hairy Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) last Saturday on 6/18 at Tilden Regional Park and it was a pretty amazing day -- to not only really see this amazing species for the first time but also to collect so many of them. To kick it off, we had found a total of 14 caterpillars and three clusters of eggs (for a total of 53 eggs) -- more than enough to ensure success in rearing them and probably even enough for a healthy breeding stock in the future. We thought for sure we had drained the place of its stock, at least for a while. . .
But the following week (last week) and this week, we proved ourselves wrong and completely outdid ourselves. From being completely nonexistent among our collection of insects, the Pipevine Swallowtail now firmly stands as one the species with the most individuals we have reared at a particular time, a close second to the more common Anise Swallowtails (we have raised thousands of the latter over the years, believe me!). And all of this in less than two weeks.
You see, we don't have actually any pipevine plants available at home for us to feed our caterpillars. So, every 2-3 days we have to head all the way back up to Tilden Park to pick a few leaves. We could also pick leaves at the Botanic Gardens (part of Tilden), but that would just be a downright violation of the hard work the gardeners have put into planting it and would also destroy the appearance of the plant for visitors. Anyway, because we have to visit the pipevine so often, we have every opportunity to nab any more caterpillars, eggs, or even butterflies that may show up (I doubt we are the only ones looking for them!!). And that's exactly what we did.
On Tuesday 6/21 when we went to pick leaves, we found two more pipevine plants that we had not seen before and reaped another 14 caterpillars -- almost all of which were fifth instars -- and doubled the number of caterpillars we had. In addition we found not three, but four more clusters of eggs for a total of 71 more eggs -- more than doubling the number of eggs we had. And to top it off we found two chrysalises off to the side of one the vines.
By the time we returned on 6/23, we didn't expect to find many more unless we discovered yet another new vine. Plus, almost all of the caterpillars we had found had been fifth instars with a whole bunch of them already wandering around and ready to pupate at home so we expected that any of the ones we missed were probably also wandering and/or already chrysalises. This would make them a pain to find them. However, on the same pipevine we found the majority of our caterpillars on 6/18, we won another 10 caterpillars. Not to shabby . . .
On 6/25, we wanted to try something different. California Pipevine (Aristolochia californica), of course, is native to the region so in theory one should be able to find it growing in the wild in the appropriate habitats. While it is true that the vast majority of natives are becoming increasingly scarce and can no longer be easily found in their natural habitat, we thought it would definitely still be worth a shot to try to find more of the stuff in other natural areas or parks. After all, we found it growing in the wild at Tilden. So, after some time, we decided to head out to Canyon Trail Park in El Cerrito.
What led us to Canyon Trail was pretty simple. Pipevine Swallowtail populations are very unstable to say the least, because they are limited to a single host plant. In Albany, where there is not a single pipevine, they are no where to be seen -- not even a stray butterfly taking a visit. In Berkeley, the swallowtails don't exist either except in rare places with pipevine such as Tilden. So, the fact that there have been sightings of Pipevine Swallowtails in El Cerrito (we believe that we even saw one there ourselves) is a strong indicator that there is pipevine. And, unless it was simply growing in someone's backyard, the best place to look would be in its natural habitat and we thought Canyon Trail was a decent contender. As an overview, Canyon Trail Park is a very small, out-of-nowhere (isolated) park with only a few short hiking trails. It actually even has a playground and picnic area and a school next to it with tennis courts and such so it's not completely a nature area. But we still were willing to give the place a chance.
However, immediately when we got on the trails at 7:30 PM that day we realized with sinking hearts that the place might not have been the natural habitat we had hoped for since there were massive amounts of invasive ivy (Hedera) vines growing rampant. Not to mention invasive wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) in some areas. After searching the trails for half an hour to no avail, we were almost ready to give up. It seemed that the only vines there were were ivy and bramble (Rubus ursinus), growing along literally every part of the trails and dominating the entire ecosystem of the park.
By the end of the half hour, the one place that we hadn't looked was a small elevated clearing off the very end of the main trail. The bottom portion of the area is covered in dried grasses and occasionally dotted with little shrubs and trees like Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia). Near the top, there are some tall trees like California native Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and what appeared to be more vines. Looking up from the trail, they looked a lot like bramble, but we took a chance and painstakingly climbed our way up to take a closer look. Here, to our incredible delight, there was California Pipevine mixed in with what was indeed a lot more bramble and ivy. The pipevine was everywhere along the ground, a much larger plant than any of the ones at Tilden though it was in a lot worse condition. Nonetheless, we found three more caterpillars here to add to our collection. While this was less than we had expected for how much of the vine there was and how many of the leaves appeared to have caterpillar holes bitten into them, it was a whole lot better than coming back empty handed after such a long trip. The next day when we came back here during the day (2:00 PM) we even found a female butterfly as well as some nice looking grasshoppers.
By today, we were back to Tilden. Even though the chances of finding any more caterpillars was even lower than before (almost all of the fifth instars we have at home are beginning to pupate), it had been a week and a half since our first visit on 6/18 so we still had a good shot for finding some freshly laid eggs. After searching for well over an hour, we gathered our biggest and most insane find yet in terms of numbers: a total of 5 more egg clusters for a total of 67 eggs, 2 clusters (of 14 and 21) of young caterpillars that must have hatched from eggs we missed previously, a lone second instar caterpillar, and another chrysalis.
So, the question we all want answered now is: What in the world is our total?
In total (discluding any that may have later died) we found twelve egg clusters for 191 eggs, two clusters of gregarious (young) caterpillars for 35 caterpillars, 43 solitary caterpillars, and 3 chrysalises. A grand total of 272 individuals we are or will be rearing this summer, and all in just ten short days. I guess, the final moral of the story is "if you want something, get out there and look!"
This timeline is a series of daily posts recording our observations on and experiences with various insects around our residence in Albany California, from 2012-2017. 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)
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)
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by common name)
Butterflies & Moths
African moon moth
Cabbage looper moth
"California" pipevine swallowtail
Common checkerspot skipper
Eastern giant swallowtail
Eastern tiger swallowtail
Genista broom moth
Gray furcula moth
Indian tussar moth
Peleides blue morpho
Salt marsh moth
Speckled green fruitworm moth
Spotted tussock moth
"Taiwan" Saw-winged sphinx
Yellow-edged giant owl
West coast lady
Western giant swallowtail
Western tiger swallowtail
Western tussock moth
Butterfly & Moth Hybrids
Black swallowtail × anise swallowtail
Eastern tiger swallowtail× western tiger swallowtail
Grasshoppers, Katydids, & Crickets
Mexican bush katydid
Stick & Leaf Insects
Giant leaf insect
Indian walking stick
Ants, Bees, Wasps, & Sawflies
Black and white chalcid wasp
European paper wasp
Pediobius chalcid wasp
Valley carpenter bee
Western honey bee
Yellow-faced bumble bee
Common green bottle fly
Rough Stink Bug
Southern green stink bug
Dragonflies & Damselflies
Convergent lady beetle
Seven-spotted lady beetle
Spotted cucumber beetle
Western blood-red lady beetle
European garden spider
Red-backed jumping spider