Another Interesting Lep Day!

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)March 24, 2012

I went down towards the woods to a big group of native azaleas earlier today. The R. canescens were blooming out, and there was a big R. austrinum in full bloom. The sulphurs were all over the yellow R. austrinum blooms, with a few spicebush swallowtails and pipevine swallowtails joining in, but the big show for me was the hummingbird clearwing going from flower to flower on the R. canescens. The particular bush it was visiting is about ?10' tall, so it was high over my head. I don't understand the appeal of dying flowers over new ones, but there were a few newly opened ones on the pink R. canescens. This was the only picture I could get - can you see it?

This individual looked very small, maybe because it was up so high, but could it have been a snowberry clearwing? I've never seen one here, but then I've never seen a humminigbird clearwing so early in the year.

Speaking of early in the year, even the pecans and black gums are leafing out, the last trees to do so. We've had cold years where the pecans didn't leaf out until early May, so this has indeed been a warmer than normal winter with an early spring.

I saw a bright orange butterfly flying down my road/driveway, that I thought at first was a gulf frit. It kept flying away from me, so I didn't get a close look, but when it landed, I could see it was gray/brown on the undersides, so it was probably a goatweed leafwing. I've never seen one of these so early in the year. The wild crotons aren't up yet, so I don't know what they could use as host plants this early.

I've never seen so many butterflies this early - I'm loving it! I've been working outside a lot, planting this and that, and will continue to do so until it gets too hot! :)


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bob_71(z7 MD)

I certainly see it. Wonder what would happen if you deeply cropped it? Still have seen no butterflies except a few cabbage whites and an occasional sulphur.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 9:01AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)


I can see it, I can see it! :-)

How wonderful to know many of the little flying creatures are already out and about. I haven't had much time to be outside so can't report on much activity in my area but here's hoping it is a busy and very special spring for everyone.

Oh, one thing I noticed this early a.m. as I was checking on the potted plants and seedlings in the greenhouse. Mama Carolina Wren has built a nest in a bucket on a shelf in there and as of today, it looks like she has taken up residence. Papa was singing just after daybreak so maybe they've had their honeymoon and are now ready to start their family. I wish she hadn't built in there as it is accessible to the neighborhood cats. She put so much work into building it, I haven't the heart to close it off to her. I have two black swallowtail chrysalides that also overwintered in there and have yet to eclose. I'm thinking I should bring their enclosure back up to the deck as Mama Wren might make dinner of them before they're able to dry their wings and fly off.

Thank you for sharing your spring photo with us. I adore this time of year.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 12:18PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Bob, I cropped it somewhat, but when I cropped it deeply, it got real blurry. The picture doesn't fully show how high up this little moth was.

Mary, those Carolina wrens are a hoot, the odd places they choose for their nests. My husband and his ham radio friends are working a contest this weekend. I was a bit upset when I saw that they were setting up shop in the garage, where the wren nest is. I pointed her and her eggs out to them, so they'd be careful, and my husband says she's gone in and out of the garage all weekend as if they weren't there. What fun little birds!
I don't know the answer about how to keep the cat from eating the birds, and the birds from eating the chrysalides! :/ I'd sure try to figure something out, though - I love them all!

The sleepy orange cats, which I've left outside to raise themselves, are growing steadily, and are nearly last instars now. The pipevine swallowtails hatched and are growing, and I saw a female pipevine swallowtail checking the vines out in that "I'm going to lay some eggs" way. I found my first palamedes swallowtail egg of the season on some redbay new growth, and when I bent the stem back a little to make this picture, the stem broke, so now I'll be forced to raise this one myself! :)


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 5:15PM
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Today was a good day here. I was out working in the yard and there were at least 4 Monarchs chasing each other, some Sulphurs feeding on the Pineapple Salvia and Cassias.
There was a Giant around the Pentas, Gulf Frits on the Coral Tree. I was excited to see a female Zebra Longwing - I have seen a couple males around but this was a larger one so I am assuming it was a girl -she was nectaring on the Pentas but not looking interested in the Suberosa around the area. My other Passionvines are on the other side of the yard - she may have been over there but I didn't see her. Then I spotted a Pipevine Swallowtail trying to find a place to lay her eggs. I swear those gals always seem to have a hard time making up their minds where to put those eggs. This one wanted to pick the stems that were moving in the wind and of course couldn't land on them long enough to do the job. I did find one spot with two eggs and another that she kept coming back to so there probably eggs there as well. I will need to move them to the white veined Pipevine as they won't last on the calico. There was also several Polydamas flying around, chasing the Monarchs and the Pipevine. Hope this season brings back the Eastern Blacks and even more ZLWS.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 11:42PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Congrats on all the butterflies, Mary, especially the big zebra longwing - maybe she'll lay you some eggs!
I'm always amused at the way pipevine swallowtail females take SOOOOOOOO long to decide where to lay their eggs. I guess it's more important to get the right spot when you lay them in clusters instead of singly, but they can take a hour or more just deciding - amazing!
What do you mean by coral tree, Mary? 'Sounds interesting!

Now that I think about it, I bet that orange butterfly was a question mark, not a leafwing. QMs always show up early - 'don't know why I forgot about them. Maybe I'll find some eggs/cats on the false nettles or the just-now-emerging hops vines.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 12:30AM
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We had a beautiful sunny day yesterday with no wind so I was hoping I might see some butterflies but only a couple cabbage whites fluttering around the yard. The others must be waiting for the real spring.

I don't know if I have the same kind of hummingbird clearwings that you do Misssherry but one of their favorite things to nectar on in my yard is Wolfberry (lycium). I can't recall ever seeing any other butterflies or moths around it but there were always several hummingbird clearwings going after the flowers when it was in bloom. It has long branches that come out from the base sort of like a forsythia and they will lay along the ground and root along the stems or at the tips if you don't keep an eye on it and keep it trimmed back. It's an intersting plant but I think it could become invasive.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 7:57AM
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I can see it too, Sherry! You can certainly see how they get their name, huh. Oh and yes, poor you will have to raise that Palamedes Swallowtail now. ;-)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 11:48AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I've never heard of wolfberry, Christie, so I looked it up. We have a type of Lycium in the Southeast, but it's L. carolinianum/salt matrimony vine, and it grows in saline marshes, not here.
Both wolfberry and salt matrimony vine are in the tomato family, but the flowers of wolfberry look much more like something hummingbird clearwings would like. I'd be afraid to plant an Asian plant here - Asians tend to be VERY invasive in this area, like Chinese privet, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese climbing fern, kudzu, etc. The fruits look like little tomatoes, interesting!


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 11:50AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I'm going to combine my interesting lep days.

Got home from the vet a little bit ago (cat's annual check up). Saw my first RA of the year. Was sunning itself on the front yard fence.

On Monday, I had my son pull out the solar lights so I could mow. When I was putting them back in, I had quite the surprise. A swallowtail had made a chrysalis on one of the stakes. I think it is a GST.

A couple weeks ago, I was cutting back roses and found a cecropia cocoon attached to one of the branches. The roses are directly under a crabapple I use to raise cecropias so I'm guessing it was an escapee from one of my sleeves.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 11:40AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Is the cecropia cocoon empty or has it got a pupae in it, KC?
I'd be REAL excited about a cecropia!

I brought in some American ladies to raise. I made this picture of an AL nest, and used one of the new functions of my Picasso software - it makes a frame -


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 2:16PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

The cecropia is alive (I would not be posting about empties). I'd be excited too if I was not pretty sure it was an escapee. I have not found a live wild cecropia cocoon since the '70s, mostly because I'm not a paperboy anymore. Back then, I routinely found them in the inside upper corners of covered front porches. I still look there when I help my kids sell stuff for scouts but have had zero luck.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 2:32PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The palamedes egg has grown considerably, looks to be in the last instar. I'm noticing for the first time that they've got blue on the mouth -

I've accidentally cut off red bay leaves with eggs on them twice more - you'd think I'd examine the leaves better! - so I'm raising a very small palamedes cat, plus there's a leaf with an egg on it in a cage on my porch.
I'm also raising 6 spicebush swallowtails, and I've found quite a few of them in the woods. I have to stop somewhere, though, can't raise them all!


    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 6:40PM
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Sherry, great picture of your palamedes! Not sure what that is, but it looks like it will become an exquisite butterfly. :)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 9:32PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Tony, palamedes swallowtails are big butterflies, about the same size as giant and tiger swallowtails, and they're closely related to both tiger and spicebush swallowtails. They have a vertical stripe on their body (underside, not visible on top) like tigers, and as caterpillars, they look almost exactly like spicebush cats. Also, they eat a member of the laurel family - Perseas - as do spicebush cats, who eat spicebush, sassafras, and various other laurels.

The palamedes that was an egg and then a caterpillar in the above pictures emerged today, a male. I found the egg on March 25th, it had probably only been there a day or two, making it exactly two months from the time his mother laid the egg until he emerged.

He was in a hurry to leave, but I got this picture of him in the cage right before he flew out hurriedly -

The other palamedes that I got as an egg is probably in the last instar, a REAL big one, so it's probably a female.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 4:09PM
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