Transformation

During the distraction of the forest fire I had forgotten to remove those three big black-and-yellow-striped caterpillars with the red dots I’d seen on my parsley.  It was two days later that I plucked them off the bare stalks that were once a thriving bed of herb.

I’d brought them into the kitchen with the measly remainders of the parsley, for identification and to decide what habitat to release them into.

I identified them as the caterpillar of the Old World Swallowtail butterfly, surprisingly, as I’ve only ever seen one or two here.  That’s the classic Swallowtail to you and I, not the stripeyTiger Swallowtail which is a far more frequent visitor.

I got round to dealing with them the next day but to my dismay two of them had already turned into chrysalises overnight!  The third was struggling all day to shed its skin and ran out of energy in the end and shrivelled up and died.  Watching this brought a curious realisation of the intense effort involved in the process of pupation, one that evidently not all caterpillars succeed in.

The bucket once again got left in the kitchen awaiting a decision on where to now put two chrysalises so that they’d make it through the winter.

Just over a week later, to my dismay (utter dismay, I might add, this time!), I’d walked past the bucket and glanced a butterfly in there!  One beautiful, magical Swallowtail Butterfly. One of its wings was still crumpled.  I put the bucket outside so that it could leave when it was ready but it was still there the next day, still with one crumpled wing.

The second one hatched that day.  This one’s wings were straightened out to perfection before I’d even spotted him.  I learned from the internet that it should only take a very short time for fluid to fill the wings to their full extension after the butterfly emerges.

Two Swallowtails just Emerged from Chrysalis

It seemed the ‘rehydration’ process had been completed and that was that. I managed to unhitch it a little, bit by bit as the butterfly graced me with a display of fluttering and prancing up and down my arms, around my neck, over my head and basically appear to be playing with me!  I managed to effect a huge improvement to the wing in that time anyway and it was now able to fly, if only in short bursts and only round corners.

I am so totally blown away by the fact that a Swallowtail Butterfly is walking around all over me that I lose all integrity and go and take one of those awful holding-the-camera-at-yourself photos.  And actually it’s only just visible just behind my shoulder.  But you get the picture, yes?

Why these butterflies should be hatching in the middle of September as the summer’s ending, with bad weather on the way, I had no idea.

This one stayed around a lot longer than the other one, seemingly plucking up courage, but finally flew over the courtyard wall and away. I wonder if it survived.

Equally, having the pleasure of observing their efforts in their first flights was awesome.  It took three attempts for them to make it over the wall:  The first flight barely off the ground; the second flight a bit higher; and the third one right up and over the top and gone!

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This entry was posted in Butterflies, Caterpillars, Portugal, Wildlife and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Transformation

  1. Fantastic photos, Andrea! They’re such beautiful creatures.

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