Fennel Stories #1 Black Swallowtail

Fennel Stories
#1 Black Swallowtail
Papilio polyxenes

Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes female on Virginia Mountain Mint. July 31, 2014. Leamington, Ontario.
Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes female on Virginia Mountain Mint. July 31, 2014. Leamington, Ontario.

 

Four six-packs of fennel dumped unceremoniously in a clump into the garden for the Black Swallowtails Papilio polyxenes. Better late than never, the fennel didn’t get planted until mid-June.

 

 

Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes caterpillars in different stages of development. August 17, 2015, Leamington, Ontario.
Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes caterpillars in different stages of development. August 17, 2015, Leamington, Ontario.

 

 

Caterpillars kept popping up all summer, not that they lasted long.

 

 

 

 

 

Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes caterpillar (about 3rd instar) on fennel with forked defense system (osmeterium) in operation. July 27, 2012. Wheatley, Ontario.
Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes caterpillar (about 3rd instar) on fennel with forked defense system (osmeterium) in operation. July 27, 2012. Wheatley, Ontario.

Plagued by wasps and hornets of every description that buzzed frantically through the fennel, always searching. The most torturous were the Yellow Jackets, patrolling ceaselessly, hoping for a green/black capture. The caterpillars, like all Swallowtails, have a defense system – an orange osmeterium (oz-ma-TER-e-um), a forked appendage that pops out of the top of their heads. The foul odor it emits is supposed to frighten off predators, but it doesn’t work too well.

Another wasp predator called the Swallowtail Ichneumon Trogus pennator lay their eggs right inside the caterpillars, eventually killing them.

 

 

 

Swallowtail Ichneumon Wasp Trogus pennator laying eggs in Black Swallowtail caterpillar Papilio polyxenes. Sept. 21, 2012. Wheatley, Ontario.
Swallowtail Ichneumon Wasp Trogus pennator laying eggs in Black Swallowtail caterpillar Papilio polyxenes. Sept. 21, 2012. Wheatley, Ontario.

 

 

Biodiversity – where everybody is somebody else’s lunch.

 

Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes chrysalis under a brick overhang. Sept. 11, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.
Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes chrysalis under a brick overhang. Sept. 11, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

One made it to pupation. Smart and cautious, it formed a chrysalis under a brick overhang on the house.

Danaus plexippus

Monarch
Danaus plexippus

 

Second wave of Monarch Danaus plexippus on Purple Salvia, the only food left in our yard. Oct 14, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.
Second wave of Monarch Danaus plexippus on Purple Salvia, the only food left in our yard. Oct 14, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.

Update: October 14, 2017

Since the last update of September 25, 2017, another huge wave of Monarchs have been pouring through Leamington.

Numbers have again steadily increased since the first of October, from 1 or 2 a day to 10 a day. Friday, October 13, 2017 driving to Point Pelee National Park about 20 were seen. The trip was more complicated and a little longer than expected with a necessary detour spanning a couple of concessions and back roads – but all with lots of Monarchs flying.

Stopped at the Sanctuary which is the first path to Lake Erie in the Park, a favourite haunt for Swallowtails with all the Hoptrees. An old, half dead Butternut held about 10 Monarchs, then the sun broke out and they all started flying. By the lakeshore dune area, a steady stream of them were seen flying along the shoreline, heading south.

An attempt to capture flying Monarchs Danaus plexippus at West Beach, Point Pelee National Park, Oct. 13, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.
An attempt to capture flying Monarchs Danaus plexippus at West Beach, Point Pelee National Park, Oct. 13, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.

Down at West Beach, the last ‘use your own vehicle’ stop before the end of the point, it was the same, with 50 or 60 of them (I lost count) flying around the grasses along the shore. None of them stopped long enough for a picture. The flowers, mostly Asters and Goldenrod have long disappeared. What are they eating?

A close approximation – about 200 Monarchs were seen.

Stopped at the gas station on my way back and met a friend who also was astonished at the number of Monarchs. He counted 31 of them on dandelions in the field next to his house, which is a few concessions from the Park.

Go Monarchs!

Danaus plexippus

Monarch
Danaus plexippus

Update Sep 25, 2017.

Monarch Danaus plexippus chrysalis. The first one to use Purple-stemmed Aster. September 03, 2017. Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus chrysalis. The first one to use Purple-stemmed Aster. September 03, 2017. Leamington, Ontario.

 

The last chrysalis hatched out Sep 24, 2017, after forming its pupa on Sep 03 – a total of 21 days. Photo from Sep 3rd.

 

 

 

 

Under all those dead aster leaves is a dark chrysalis Monarch Danaus plexippus ready to hatch. Sept 24, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.
Under all those dead aster leaves is a dark chrysalis Monarch Danaus plexippus ready to hatch. Sept 24, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.

 

Chrysalis on Sep 24, barely visible under all those Aster leaves.

The images are very poor due to difficulty parting the clump of Asters without disturbing the butterfly.

 

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus just hatched on Aster. Sept 24, 2017. Leamington, Ontario. The last one of the season.
Monarch Danaus plexippus just hatched on Aster. Sept 24, 2017. Leamington, Ontario. The last one of the season.

During these last days of summer, there were 2 chrysalis on Morning Glory, 2 on Meadowsweet Spiraea alba directly in front of the Morning Glories, 1 on Steeplebush Spiraea tomentosa which was next to the Meadowsweet, and 2 more in Purple-stemmed Asters which were closer to their original food plant Swamp Milkweed.

Monarch Danaus plexippus on Butterfly Bush Aug 29, 2005, Wheatley, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus on Butterfly Bush Aug 29, 2005, Wheatley, Ontario.

 

On the 24th, a total of 5 Monarch, including the last one to hatch visited the yard.

Today (Sep 25th), only one stopped by for a snack on Tall Boneset.

I suspect this is the end of their season. Bye Monarchs.

 

Danaus plexippus

Monarch
Danaus plexippus

Update: September 22, 2017

Two weeks ago 2 to 3 Monarchs a day were flying through the yard. They didn’t dally, but grabbed a quick snack and were on their way, flying southwest.
Last week the numbers picked-up to 4 a day. By the weekend (Sept 15-17, 2017) 10 to 12 a day. None stayed more than a few minutes.

Monarch Danaus plexippus male hatched after 19 days on Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba) Sept. 22, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus male hatched after 19 days on Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba) Sept. 22, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.

Length of time in pupa is generally 10 to 15 days. It appears things move a bit more slowly in Ontario. This is day 19 and finally a Monarch adult male hatched from the Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba). It formed its chrysalis on September 3, 2017 and hatched today September 22, 2017. (see photos previous Monarch blog).

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus chrysalis after 18 days on Steeplebush. Maybe tomorrow it will hatch. Sep 22, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus chrysalis after 18 days on Steeplebush. Maybe tomorrow it will hatch. Sep 22, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.

 

Two more chrysalis found on Sept 04-17 are not hatched yet, maybe tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus male at left on Meadowsweet; at right on Morning Glory. Just hatched Sept. 22, 2017, Leamington, Ontario. In chrysalis for 19 days.
Monarch Danaus plexippus male at left on Meadowsweet; at right on Morning Glory. Just hatched Sept. 22, 2017, Leamington, Ontario. In chrysalis for 19 days.

While photographing the newly hatched adult, another one was discovered not a foot away, under a Morning Glory leaf on the fence. How did I miss that one?

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus female just hatch under a Morning Glory leaf. Sept. 22, 2017, Leamington, Ontario
Monarch Danaus plexippus female just hatch under a Morning Glory leaf. Sept. 22, 2017, Leamington, Ontario

Possibly the fall migration has begun early this year. Latest forecast has day-time highs of 7 C. or 45 F. for the 1st week of October.

 

Stay tuned.

Monarch Danaus plexippus spent chrysalis on Morning Glory. Sept. 22, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus spent chrysalis on Morning Glory. Sept. 22, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.

Danaus plexippus

Monarch
Danaus plexippus

 

Update September 3 and 4, 2017.

Monarch Danaus plexippus. The other one of the last of two caterpillars still on Swamp Milkweed. September 04, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus. The other one of the last of two caterpillars still on Swamp Milkweed. September 04, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.

 

 

Only two of the smaller Monarch caterpillar left on the Swamp Milkweed.

 

 

 

All the others wandered off.

Monarch Danaus plexippus. The last of two caterpillars still on Swamp Milkweed. September 04, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus. The last of two caterpillars still on Swamp Milkweed. September 04, 2017, Leamington, Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus chrysalis formed on Meadowsweet Spiraea alba. September 03, 2017. Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus chrysalis formed on Meadowsweet Spiraea alba. September 03, 2017. Leamington, Ontario.

 

The first one, found on Narrow-leaf Meadowsweet Spiraea alba has form chrysalis.

 

 

 

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus chrysalis. The first one to use Purple-stemmed Aster. September 03, 2017. Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus chrysalis. The first one to use Purple-stemmed Aster. September 03, 2017. Leamington, Ontario.

Two more of them preferred Purple-stemmed Asters Symphotrichum puniceum.

Monarch Danaus plexippus chrysalis. The second one to use Purple-stemmed Aster, about 6 inches away from the first one. September 04, 2017. Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus chrysalis. The second one to use Purple-stemmed Aster, about 6 inches away from the first one. September 04, 2017. Leamington, Ontario.

Danaus plexippus

Monarch
Danaus plexippus

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus on Cardinal Flower. August 30, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus on Cardinal Flower. August 30, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.

The Leamington Monarch Trail gardens project started in 2014 to help with migrating Monarchs.

The trail is part of a 17 click system travelling through Leamington. The butterfly garden is about 5 clicks long, right beside the main trail. Many volunteers and Point Pelee National Park helped to build these gardens.

“It’s the municipality vision that this project will help restore and support the large number of monarch butterflies that migrate through the Leamington area and create a natural spectacle to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike,” said Leamington’s Chief Administrative Officer, Peter Neufeld in a media release.

Monarch Danaus plexippus 3 larvae on Swamp Milkweed. August 29, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus 3 larvae on Swamp Milkweed. August 29, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.

In 2014, the monarch butterfly population was the lowest ever.

I had 10 Monarchs in the yard yesterday (August 29, 2017) and 7 caterpillars on the Swamp Milkweed.

 

 

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus on Tall Ironweed. August 29, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus on Tall Ironweed. August 29, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.

Soon we may be the Butterfly Capital of Canada.

 

 

 

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus larva on Swamp Milkweed. August 29, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus larva on Swamp Milkweed. August 29, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus on Joe-Pye Weed. August 29, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus on Joe-Pye Weed. August 29, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch Danaus plexippus larva on Swamp Milkweed. August 29, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.
Monarch Danaus plexippus larva on Swamp Milkweed. August 29, 2017 Leamington, Ontario.

Polygonia interrogationis

Question Mark
Polygonia interrogationis

Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis summer form on Dogwood June 05, 2010. Wheatley, Ontario.
Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis summer form on Dogwood June 05, 2010. Wheatley, Ontario.

Identification: Orange with dark marks. Summer form immigrates to Ontario in mid-April and has dark hind wings outlined in silver. This form is present all season until September. The winter form has orange hind wings and represents the last brood or generation that migrates south.

Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis summer form on Butterfly Bush, July 24, 2015 Leamington, Ontario.
Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis summer form on Butterfly Bush, July 24, 2015 Leamington, Ontario.

Similar Species: Eastern Comma is smaller and has only three transverse spots in the mid upperside of the forewing, whereas the Question Mark has the three spots plus a dash.

Size: 45 to 68 mm wingspan. Larva to 4.5cm long.

Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis feeding on sap at Point Pelee, Delaurier House, April 16, 2012.
Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis feeding on sap at Point Pelee, Delaurier House, April 16, 2012.

 

Habitat: Old woods with open areas, meadows, edges of farmer fields, parks.

Food: Rotting fruit, tree sap, dung, carrion. Also flowers: Purple Coneflower, Oregano (herb) Butterfly Bush, Honeysuckle, Dogwood, Viburnum, fruit tree blossoms, Virgin’s Bower, Tall Boneset.

Larvae feed on American elm Ulmus americanus, Hackberry Celtis, Japanese Hop Humulus japonicus (exotic), Nettles Urtica, and False Nettle Boehmeria cylindrica.

Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis winter form September 16, 2013 on Tall Boneset. Wheatley, Ontario.
Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis winter form September 16, 2013 on Tall Boneset. Wheatley, Ontario.

Flight Time: In spring immigrants re-colonize in mid-April, leaving in September/October.

Life Cycle: Eggs are bright green, keg-shaped and ribbed. Eggs laid in mid-April and again mid to late July. Caterpillars feeding singly on the underside of leaves. Two generations per year, 2nd generation has light colored hind wings (winter form) and migrates south, with strays found as far south as Cuba.

Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis winter form September 16, 2013 on Tall Boneset. Wheatley, Ontario.
Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis winter form September 16, 2013 on Tall Boneset. Wheatley, Ontario.

Comments: Essex County north to Lake Superior.

Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis mature larvae August 12, 2009 on Hops (Humulus) Aug 12, 2009. Wheatley, Ontario.
Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis mature larvae August 12, 2009 on Hops (Humulus) Aug 12, 2009. Wheatley, Ontario.
Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis young larvae June 08, 2006 on Dwarf Hackberry. Wheatley, Ontario.
Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis young larvae June 08, 2006 on Dwarf Hackberry. Wheatley, Ontario.