Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Butterfly Bouquet

Lest you think I have lost my mind and taken up floral arranging on a "botany" blog, hear me out! I have decided to do some home experimentation to find out if Black Swallowtail caterpillars prefer native or non-native plants.

The best way to provide them with a complete selection of host possibilities is to put them in a bouquet. Who says a "nature-nut" can't be a classy gal?

So, if you sit down with a lovely arrangement at my table...

... you might want to know your dinning companions.

This fellow seems to prefer the Queen-Anne's-lace, Daucus carota. Hard to believe such a lovely, delicate flower is considered a noxious weed! The non-native plant arrived in the states with the European settlers and some say it is the genetic ancestor to the carrots they planted. One has to wonder when Black Swallowtail larva decided "lace" can be ... delicious!
I'll try to monitor and photograph each of the butterflies-to-be on this bouquet and maybe we can learn something about their food preferences.

Normally, I keep these bouquets in a glass case with a large stick for caterpillars in their crawling stage. The six caterpillars can pretty much consume a bouquet in a couple of days. Fresh- predator free- flora is constantly provided for their enjoyment.
Many caterpillar "crops" can turn into a nightmare of larva wandering off, or losses to predators, or other failings. Generally, I prefer to leave the guys in the garden where they belong, but my today curiosity is out of hand.
I certainly hope that same curiosity doesn't kill the cats!

1 comment:

  1. I've found that bringing insects into captivity is a great way to learn about their habits. I always seem to have something inside that I'm keeping an eye on.