Can you find the butterfly?
Remember all of my cloudless sulphur caterpillars? Well, they all pupated—or I think they all pupated. I could only find two so far!
First I found a chrysalis attached to a wire up against the house about a week ago. I was very thrilled to see it and I had to do a double take at first because the chrysalis looked like a leaf. That’s a pretty fantastic cover if you ask me—and just like a changing autumn leaf to boot!
Since then I have been on a mission to find more but they have proved elusive. I’ve even looked further away from their host plant in case they really crawled a long way away to look for a place to pupate. Still—I hadn’t found more than that one.
Then last Sunday, as Forest was playing in the sand box and I was just milling about the potting bench and side yard garden, I got down on my knees to crawl around a bit and look harder. I saw something moving, a bright yellow thing, and as my eyes focused I realized it was a cloudless sulphur just eclosing! I mean, it had to have happened just a few minutes before because liquid was still dripping from her body.
Her chrysalis was still partly attached and her wings were slowly unfurling. It looked like one was having trouble opening but I supposed it could take awhile to full emerge, having watched the monarchs do the same in their cage.
Finding this newly emerged butterfly in the wild of my garden was pretty enthralling! I’ve tried to keep my eye on wild monarch and gulf fritillary chrysalides in the garden before to no avail—I always missed them emerging. It was pretty spectacular to have caught this one and I knew it was something special. At the time I was wishing I wasn’t having to keep an eye and ear on Forest so I could have sat there for the entire time she took to emerge. Instead I dashed inside to grab my camera as quickly as possible and took what photos I could of the elusive moment before Forest moved on to something else.
Then, a few days ago at lunch I opted for walking around the garden instead of actively working in it and I noticed the butterfly in the chrysalis on the wire had emerged. She was fully out and almost ready to fly but I noticed Ruby the feral was eyeing her a little too closely. I went inside to get my camera again and by the time I got back out Ruby had managed to knock her off the wire. I shooed Ruby away and picked up the butterfly. Luckily she was not harmed and I moved her about five feet up into a beautyberry to finish preparing for flight. The ferals are usually pretty good—at least what we’ve noticed—but from time to time we do see their predatory behavior impacting some wildlife in our yard. It’s one of the things we’ve had to reconcile ourselves with in letting them stay around. At least we don’t have the 15 that were here when we moved on…good grief that would have been insane. (I realize feral cats are highly contentious and don’t aim to make this for/against argument at the moment.)
There is an abundance of cloudless sulphurs visiting the salvias now and I keep looking for more caterpillars but haven’t seen any lately. The Argentine senna isn’t blooming anymore so maybe that’s one reason they aren’t there—they can’t camouflage on the flowers. I am seeing the odd monarch here and there and just found a caterpillar the other day. It’s time to cut the tropical milkweed back and I’ll probably do half of them this weekend and leave some so that caterpillar and any others can finish out its life cycle. Gulf fritillaries are still around as well and I’m seeing caterpillars once again after a slight lull.
It’s busy with the warm weather!