#1 Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes
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.
Caterpillars kept popping up all summer, not that they lasted long.
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.
Biodiversity – where everybody is somebody else’s lunch.
One made it to pupation. Smart and cautious, it formed a chrysalis under a brick overhang on the house.
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.
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.
The last chrysalis hatched out Sep 24, 2017, after forming its pupa on Sep 03 – a total of 21 days. Photo from Sep 3rd.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Two more chrysalis found on Sept 04-17 are not hatched yet, maybe tomorrow.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Eastern Comma or Hop Merchant Polygonia comma Po-lee-GOH-nee-uh
Identification: Orange with black marks and series of yellowish dots along hind wing edge. A summer form in June and July has hind wings entirely dark. Underside has a silver curved line in center of top wing, called a comma.
Size: 37 to 65 mm wing span. Larva to 4 cm long.
Similar Species: Question Mark P. interrogationis is larger and also has a series of three large dots across mid front wing, plus another smaller dot at outer end. Underside has silver comma with a dot at the end – a sideways question mark.
Gray Comma Polygonia grogne is missing a large black spot about mid-way on outer edge of hind wing. Sometimes hidden if wing aren’t fully spread out.
Habitat: Deciduous forests, prefers being close to water, creeks and swamps.
Food: Adults feed on tree sap in early spring; also rotting fruit like watermelon. Frequently at flowers: Butterfly Bush, New England Aster, Stonecrop Sedum, especially Tall Boneset.
Larva feed on Nettles Urtica, Hop Vine Humulus (exotic), False Nettle Boehmeria cylindrica, Wood Nettle Laportea canadensis, also Elm trees.
Flight Times: March to November, depending on weather.
Females lay eggs in April and May. Eggs pale green, laid singly or stacked 9 deep on underside of leaves and stems. Caterpillars feed at night and hide during the day in leaf shelters and become the summer form adults, with dark hind wings. They lay eggs in June/July, and the new adults are the longest-lived butterflies in south-western Ontario, hibernating over the winter.
Comments: Abundant in Essex County, extending north to Lake Superior.
Very rare in south-western Ontario, with a few recorded at Point Pelee, intermittently throughout the years, but it is a permanent resident in central and northern Ontario. They prefer wet areas and marshes. Caterpillars feed on nettles Urtica.
While in Stratford waiting to see a play, this one was found in the Shakespeare Garden on an exotic unknown shrub, too high to get a photo of the top side.
Adults prefer sap and rotting fruit, and occasionally nectar from flowers. Females lay a massive number of eggs on the underside of nettle leaves, and like the Mourning Cloak, the caterpillars all stay together when young. They can have up to 3 generations a year. Adults hibernate during the winter.
Long-lived, with a life span of about 10 months, Mourning Cloaks are the first to appear in the spring after hibernating all winter.
Females lay eggs from early May to early July in the north using a variety of trees like elm, hackberry, poplar, birch farther north, but the females prefer willow. Eggs are yellow, and turn black before hatching.
Larvae are called the Spiny Elm caterpillar. When young, they usually stick together, all on the same leaf.
New batches of adult Mourning Cloaks appear about mid-June in southern Ontario, later up north. They will feed on flower nectar of milkweed, dogbane, boneset, butterfly bush and even boxwood flowers, but they prefer tree sap and rotting fruit.
Red-spotted Purple flies in south-western Ontario from Mid-June to the first week of September, with 2 generations, and sometimes a partial 3rd generation. Slightly varied, some have red spots along the front wing edge, but these spots can fade.
Some have slightly pointed hind wings, with or without a red spot on inner edge of the hind wings (anal angle), and closely resemble sub-species proserpina from s. w. U.S. Genetic studies have proved the two are sister species, but neither is that closely related to the White Admiral.
Apparently southern Ontario is a hybridization zone for interbreeding between the Red-spotted Purple and the White Admiral Limenitis arthemis, but the White Admiral doesn’t fly south of the London/ Hamilton corridor. Other hybrid zones are in New England, and Kentucky/Tennessee.
Red-spotted Purple are also supposed to be mimics of the Pipevine Swallowtail Battus philenor, but other than occasional migrating strays at Point Pelee and a few strays near Toronto, it doesn’t fly here either. Recent research is beginning to question the Batesian mimicry.
Red-spotted Purple feed on a great variety of flowers, contrary to some reports: Butterfly Bush, Hoptree, Virgin’s Bower, Queen Anne’s Lace, Boneset, Sweet William and Blazing Star. Like the Viceroy, they also enjoy rotting fruit like apples and watermelon. Caterpillars are almost identical to the Viceroy Limenitis archippus and feed on cherry, hawthorn, apple, serviceberry, beech and farther north also on birch.
When the last brood of caterpillars are half-grown (3rd instar) in the fall, they start silking the sides of a leaf together to form a tube (hibernacula), then they weave silk where the leaf stem is attached to the branch, so their new home won’t fall off the tree. They hibernate tucked in their leaf tube all winter. On Willow, they emerge from hibernation when the catkins (flowers) appear.
Caterpillars feed on mostly willow and poplar leaves. On willow, they strip the leaf, leaving only the main rib. They have an unusual habit of attaching frass and bits of the leaf at the tip of the stripped leaf with silk. It’s not just the adults that like moisture. This mature caterpillar is patiently waiting for rain so it can form a chrysalis. Several mature larvae were on a peach-leaf willow, not eating, just laying around waiting for rain.
Two days later, at noon, with just a brief shower, this caterpillar, still wet, immediately spun a foot-hold on a Peach-leaf Willow twig and started to form its chrysalis. A second one decided to spin a foot-hold directly on the underside of its leaf. It was a very brief shower, but wet enough to signal them to start the change.
Adults start appearing in mid-June and have 3 generations by mid-September, flying as late as mid-October if the weather holds. Adults look just like the Monarch’s except for a black line across the middle of their hind wings.
Viceroy isn’t picky about the flowers they visit for nectar. They feed on Dogbane, Dogwood, Butterfly Bush, Queen Anne’s Lace, Purple Coneflower, Boneset, Culver’s root, Virgin’s Bower, Joe-Pye Weed and Stonecrop (Sedum).
In August if there’s a lot of rain, tomatoes suck up so much moisture their skins split. Viceroys rush in to help, sucking up all that liquid before the tomato heals over and scars. They have a fondness for other over-ripe fruits like cherries and plums and wind-fall apples.
Their favorite liquid is watermelon and they return repeated throughout the day to imbibe the juice. Unfortunately, when pesky flies find the melon, they never leave.