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Did my BST die or just getting ready to molt?

Posted by paul2834 Austin, TX (My Page) on
Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 17:41

My BST hatched on Thursday and wasn't eating the fennel he was placed on, so I made a stop to Walmart to get a parsley leaf. He took a few bites and crawled off a bit and stopped moving. It then occurred to me these leaves may have been pesticide-riden. I poked him with some old fennel and he did react with his osmeterium and lunging his body around, so I quickly got him off and onto a leave from Whole Foods, after washing it thoroughly and drying it.

Afterwards, he seemed to be fine. I saw him eating and pooping. I thought I was in the clear. The only problem was that the parsley wilts very quickly, so I had to make a stop to Whole Foods just before closing and in the morning. Usually he's crawling around his tupperware demonstrating his dis-satisfaction, but at least he was crawling around and when the new food comes in, he'll happily rest and eat on that.

Today, I decided to make a stop at the botanical garden where I found him as an egg to get him some fennel from where his mama laid him on. And like before, he was crawling around the tupperware until he felt the fennel and crawled onto that and stayed on it.

While I was there, I inspected the red bay and was very ecstatic to find a white pearl egg with black streaks on it! A Spicebush or Palamedes is close to hatching. There was also a spider who has made his home on the same leaf, so I ripped off the portion with the egg and placed it in the same tupperware as the BST.

I get home and my roommate and I are chatting about my findings. BST was looking just fine crawling around his piece of fennel. The roomie goes off to work out and impatient me is trying to figure out if I have a Spicebush or a Palamedes by doing research instead of waiting for it to properly hatch. He gets back an hour later and the BST fell off his piece of fennel after I inspected it. He's not moving at all.

If he's preparing molt (so he's very still), he would still react to falling off, right? If so, he's probably dead... but I wonder what could have got him in the end.

- Could the Walmart parsley have had a delayed response?
- Was I not replacing the Whole Foods parsley quick enough that it was detrimental to the BST's health? (either eating wilting parsley or not eating at all)
- Was the fennel contaminated? There was a 4th or 5 instar BST on the one I got the piece from, so I think not...
- DId the red bay do something to the BST? I know laurels will give off a scent when crushed (and perhaps when cut?), so I wonder if that was toxic to the BST....

Any other thoughts? I feel terrible. The BST is/was my second. I raised a male Queen in May just fine.

EDIT: What seems to throw me off the most was how sudden this all happened. Also, I just checked him and poked him a bit with parsley and he did straighten out his back end (he was more v-shaped from being on the fennel before falling off)

This post was edited by paul2834 on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 19:10

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Did my BST die or just getting ready to molt?

I can't say for sure if it's dead or alive. It's not a good idea to use any grocery store food for host plants. Even Whole Foods vegetables may have systemic insecticides in them - the store saying they're natural is no guarantee that no insecticides were used.

It's always better to grow your own host plants from seed, make cuttings from roadside plants, or order your plants from a mail order, native plant source that guarantees they don't use insecticides, and doesn't sell their plants to feed people.

I've read that plants give off gases, so if you put the piece of redbay in an enclosed container with the BST caterpillar, it may have adversely affected it. In an open air situation, being near other plants is no problem.
Your redbay egg is probably a palamedes swallowtail, but spicebush swallowtails do occasionally use redbay, so it might be a spicebush.


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