In the ongoing caterpillar saga (chapters one, two, three, four, five, and six, if anyone is interested) we learned yet another interesting metamorphosis fact. To get from poopy to green, our Chinese Swallowtails don’t change colors, they shed. Cool, huh?!
Since the butterfly in March (chapter six) our little mandarin orange tree has hosted at least a half dozen “babies,” one of which made it all the way to butterfly in June– although, once again, I missed the actual emergence. As of last week, we’ve had two more caterpillars which made it to instar status and then disappeared. We found one on the ground, and with the help of a leaf, gently replaced it on the tree. Later, we found it on a chair leg. Again, we helped it back to the tree. The next day it was back on the chair, so I let it be, thinking it might like that location for it’s next transformation. But then it moved to the architectural column at the corner of our lanai. By now it hadn’t eaten in nearly three days and was still a day or two short of time to change into a chrysalis (according to the other two we watched). I decided that this caterpillar must have a death wish and with lizards and ants all around, I figured it had just as much of a chance in our new bug box as it did on it’s own on the lanai.
Later in the day, the other escapee reappeared on the lawn, mortally wounded. Could have been a lizard, I could have stepped on it, or maybe the kids did , or even the gardener who was here today. The caterpillar to butterfly ratio is not in the butterfly’s favor, but it does appear that they try year round, so that’s got to count for something. Already, there’s another bitty caterpillar giving life a try in the tree.