could these be spicebush butterfly baby nests?

mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)May 31, 2013

Oh my goodness, could these really be Spicebush Butterfly cat nests?

Just got back home from a long trip and while checking over the garden plants, I noticed, on the little spicebush plant I have potted, these little fold over places on the tips of 7 leaves. I so HOPE they are the nests of spicebush babies but never having seen them in person, not absolutely certain.

...Mary

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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Yes, indeed, Mary! Congrats, congrats!!!

They'll sneak out of their nests periodically and feed on leaves until they outgrow their nests. Then they'll make a new nest without cutting the leaf first - it'll be a leaf roll.

They make beautiful butterflies - congrats, again!

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 5:25PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Congrats, Mary! You definitely have Spicebush caterpillars. Watch for spiders to get in with the cats, especially when they are small.

Sandy

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 8:27PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Congrats Mary! Sure looks just like my baby Spicebush nests.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 8:40PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

butterflymomok.......do the spiders hurt the cats?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 9:01PM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

Thank you all for confirming the nests. Oh my, am I ever excited! I've already gone over the little plant, trying to find any type of predator insect that might be on it. Next I wrapped up the little potted tree in netting left over from making my butterfly rearing cages. The covered pot is now sitting outside in one of the deck chairs. The netting won't keep everything out but will hopefully provide a little protection. We seem to have so many insects around here that feed on butterfly eggs and the little cats!

I have a huge butterfly rearing cage that the Pipevine cats were in when the tiny wasps got in and decimated the babies about three years ago. I ask my son to put it out for the trash man but instead, he put it away in the garage. I got it out today and tried to disinfect it. After three years, would you think it might be safe to use if it has been sprayed with a bleach water solution, rinsed well and dried? I'm not going to put the spicebush plant in it tonight but if it is safe to use, it might allow me a better view of the little cats once they begin to grow.

Mary

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 9:29PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Your rearing cage should be OK after you sprayed it. Especially if you dried it out in the sun. Glad you are able to protect the little cats. And, yes, spiders do get the cats, just like they eat the butterflies. Crab spiders seem to be the worst in my garden, and there seems to be a size for every prey!

Sandy

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 11:05PM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

Thank you, Sandy, for the reassurance. I had such a terrible experience with those tiny wasps; I didn't want that tainted cage anywhere around my host plants.

I honestly don't see how any of the little eggs or cats survive with so many predators out there. Maybe we have more around here because of our high humidity and heat but it's really disheartening. I keep telling myself if at least one more butterfly egg or cat survives because I've grown their host and nectar plants, then it's worth the effort.

I hope you and yours are well and safe. I see terrible storms pounding your area again. During my trip home, we had delays and late arrivals until many passengers got backed up and pushed into another day of travel because of the severe storms moving through the Midwest. I was lucky to get out on another airline but then had to land in a terrible storm here at home. As I left the airport, I could see big limbs that had broken off of the trees during the storm. It is a really bad storm season this year.

Mary

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 10:29AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Mary, it's going to be tough year for the butterflies. The predators got a jump on them this year. I have been bringing in as many larvae as I can find--or eggs, if I find them. Even with that, I still find the little white pupa inside the nests of the Red Admiral caterpillars attached to the cat itself. The only Monarchs I've found this year were out in the meadow around the acreage. And there has been a lot of death among the larvae. Also, I am finding dead Pipevine Swallowtails out around the vines.

Sandy

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 4:43PM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

Just wanted to let everyone know the first spicebush baby is preparing to pupate. It is turning the beautiful glowing orange and appears to have found the perfect spot on one of the lower trunks of the little spicebush tree.

I've not been opening the cage to take photographs, only to water the tree. I was afraid I'd let in some of those horrid tiny flies or wasps so I've just been peeking through the plastic side of the cage to catch an occasional glimpse of the little cats. There are more leaves drawn together and leaves are eaten each night so think there are more babies. The best feeling is to know, so far, I've been able to protect these little guys.

Mary

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 3:39PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

That's wonderful, Mary! I'm so happy that you've been able to keep them safe.

I've been pretty depressed at the bad butterfly year here. Between the hurricane in 2005 and the continued logging around here, numbers of all types of butterflies have declined. My 5 1/2 acres are, as my mother says, the forest primeval, but having less forest all around here is making a big difference.

However, I found two little spicebush swallowtail cats on a sassafras by the driveway and two red-spotted purple eggs on a smallish wild black cherry. I brought the two little spicebush cats in to raise myself, in a cage on the porch. I had seen a rolled leaf, bigger than the others very close to the two caterpillar nests. I unrolled the nest, and, yep, it was a spider! :( I guess it was hoping to catch them out of the nest to eat them, so I'm sure glad I found them. I looked for more, but didn't find any.

I'll be watching the red-spotted purple eggs, and as soon as they hatch, I'll bring them in. When I was walking down the road, I saw a cherry tree that looked like one a RSP would likely lay eggs on, and indeed there were - I've been doing this so long, I'm thinking like a Mama butterfly! :)

Sherry

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 8:54PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Sherry,
I'm so sorry to hear that your year is not as full of butterflies as prior years. I know you invest a ton of time and energy (and probably money) in providing habitat for so many creatures. I hope we're just off to a slow start this year. We're still having record rains here in Michigan. I continue to hope that more people will learn how fun it is to grow plants for wildlife rather than just for ornamentation. You are the perfect poster child for habitat preservation and restoration. Have you thought about writing an editorial article for your local news? Or making a video of you out in your acreage explaining which plants you've planted and what you hope they will contribute to wildlife? Just explaining to others the decrease you've seen in different butterflies as the forest around you is lost might encourage folk to consider planting more native trees in their own yards. Also, your photos are a priceless resource. You could write an e-book and publish it online.

Keep up the good work.

Martha

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 9:08AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Hmmmm.......you've given me an idea, Martha! I think the little local paper might print an article like you suggested. If I can manage to write a good one, I could send it to the papers in Hattiesburg and Gulfport, also.

On another thread, rickinla mentioned not seeing butterflies, either, so I'm wondering if there's more to it than the logging. Of course, they may be logging in his area, too - he lives on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

This used to be butterfly heaven, so I'm pretty spoiled!

Sherry

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 9:38AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Well, my little cats must be doing okay in their little nests, because there's poop all underneath them in the cage - poop is a good indicator of healthy caterpillars! :)

I checked out the red-spotted purple eggs, and found more on the tree, plus one hatchling. I fixed them a cage, and while I was working on it, a RSP laid an egg on the end of the leaf on the cherry tree right next to the porch, so at least there will be plenty of red-spotted purples around!

Sherry

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 5:34PM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

Sherry,

I'm so sorry to hear your season so far has been less active than in years past. There hasn't been a lot of activity here, either. I did watch a Black Swallowtail lay eggs on parsley blooms of potted plants on the deck. And I'm getting lots of Pipevine eggs this year.

So happy you've found little spicebush cats to raise and that they've settled into their new home and are producing poop! As you say, always a good sign.:-)

I've been putting out over ripe bananas for the Red Spotted Purple's but have yet to spot one feeding on the fruit.

Three of my spicebush babies have formed their chrysalides and so far, all appear healthy. I notice at least one more cat moving about in the early AM this morning. There are several leaves that are rolled so don't know if cats are inside or if these are vacated nests. I don't see any evidence of nests on the Spicebush planted in a bed at the side of the house. I'm going to take out the hosta's that are growing underneath so the bed is more open. Maybe some of my babies will lay eggs one day if they can easily find the little spicebush plants! The potted one now supporting the spicebush cats is going to have to recover, as many of the leaves have been eaten.

Mary

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 11:07AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

I think this is my final baby of this group. It has chosen to form it's J near it's sibling. So far, all the chrysalides appear healthy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Mary

Spicebush Swallowtail siblings ...

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 4:16PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

They look great, Mary!

I know you're looking forward to seeing the adults!

Sherry

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 5:07PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Good job! Boy, they really demolished the leaves on that branch in the picture. Hope the spice bush survives to raise another family of butterflies. I planted a spice bush this spring, so maybe someday I can raise some cats to share with all of you.

Martha

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 6:45AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

Martha,

Yes, they did a job on the poor little thing but It is already putting out tiny leaves at the tips of the branches so they must be fairly hardy plants. Once I was certain all the cats had pupated, I took it out of the rearing cage, gave it a lite feeding and have been misting it. I'm curious to see if new leaves form along the branches, not just at the tips of the branches.

Mary

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 12:16PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Checked my Spicebushes today and found eggs. YAY! Mama must have flown in under the radar and left them.

Sandy

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 2:44PM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

I have searched all over the net and I'm still not certain of the gender of my first ever spicebush swallowtail to eclose. Thank goodness it appears to be very healthy and is just about ready to fly the coop :-)

The blue to my eyes is not a true blue, but more of an aqua green with a hint of gray! This is about the best I can do photographing this little guy? I've already forgotten what I just read; is it the female who should have true blue color? Many of the on-line photos don't identify the gender (probably like me, they don't know for certain and don't want to label erroneously!) Can anyone tell what gender it is by this poorly detailed photo?

Papilio troilus troilus - Spicebush Swallowtail - 1st to eclose Jun 29, 2013

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 10:44AM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Congrats Mary! You did an awesome job with them. I'm with you on the sexing thing. Confusing! I would guess female on yours pictured above, but I really don't know for sure.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 11:02AM
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alex928 Z8/LA

I'm thinking male, since it looks like he's got those little claspers on the bottom of the abdomen. Assuming I'm seeing it right.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 11:17AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Congratulations, Mary - you've had a boy! :)

Here are two pictures of male spicebush swallowtails. The ice blue coloring extends further up the hindwings than the blue on a female -

And here are two female spicebush swallowtails. The blue is more confined to the lower part of their hindwings, plus it's true blue, at least to my eyes -

Males tend to fade to a greenish color. But here's a male that didn't look that old, but he was green already -

As I recall, this male was truly gray, it wasn't just the camera -

Sherry

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 11:39AM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

BIG help with those photos Sherry. I guess I had never really tried to sex the Spicebush SWTs before. I had just thought of the females of being more blue and the males of being more green. Now, I will be intent on accurately sexing every single one of them that comes into my yard! So, get ready for more sexing questions! I love this forum!!
Angie

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 1:56PM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

My thanks to all for your observations and comments and to Sherry for the very helpful photos.

So, now we know we have a little male flitting about. I would hope at least one or two of the remaining four are young ladies and that he will find them attractive. Maybe more little ones later in the summer! :-)

BTW, I checked the nests on my in-ground spicebush grouping and I count four little cats hidden away in their rolled up leaves on those bushes. Yippee!

Mary

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 5:09PM
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linda_tx8(8)

That's great! I had to take a couple of tiny cats home from a native nursery to be able to raise any. The butterflies should have already been here by now, but nothing! The host plants are rarely found in this area, so if a female butterfly were anywhere around, it would find my plants.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 2:34PM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

My last Spicebush baby eclosed this morning. It is the one I photographed next to it's sibling as it was about to form it's chrysalis ... I think this is another male :-(. Happy it is healthy and hopefully a little female is still flitting about since there were eggs laid recently on the in ground spicebush plants.

once out of the rearing cage, it was off to have a drink ...

Pipevine Swallowtail on left - Spicebush Swallowtail on right

... not a good photo but want to share as I'd never have thought to see these two together in my small garden at the same time; it so lifts my spirits to watch them enjoying their morning. While I was attempting to take a photo of the recently eclosed Spicebush Swallowtail on the Stokesia bloom, the Pipevine Swallowtail flew onto another nearby bloom.

My thanks to all for helping me reach this milestone with my butterfly garden.

Mary

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 12:31PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Beautiful pictures, Mary!! And congrats on your newest spicebush swallowtail - he does indeed look like a male.

Sherry

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 12:50PM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

Thank you, Sherry. Your photos and descriptions posted earlier in this thread have helped me so much.

Mary

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 2:27PM
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