20 June 2013
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillar. Updated with egg and first instar.
Remember the golden spherical Black Swallowtail egg I posted on the June 8 linkdump? In due time it hatched and the little fellow has been happily munching away on some bronze fennel and Queen Anne's Lace. He's living on our screen porch protected from parasitic wasps, so I should be able to document the full life cycle for the blog.
You can click to embiggify, but the image is not quite sharp because when I took this photo a couple days ago I used a long lens to isolate him against a blurred background, and thus didn't get quite enough depth of field to get all of his spectacular body features in focus.
And meanwhile -
- I spotted another BST hovering over the rue we have planted by the mailbox. She was oblivious to my approach, intent on ovipositing. Frankly, if I had not seen her zoom in on this particular inflorescence of the rue, I would never have been able to spot the fiendishly-well-camouflaged greenish-yellow egg on the stamen of the greenish-yellow flowers.
Addendum: On the sixth day after the above photo was taken, the egg now appears dark:
When I zoom in maximally, I believe I can see three black stripes inside the greyish-black egg, suggesting that it's about ready to hatch.
Update: Just 3-4 hours after the photo above I looked again, and the first instar had emerged:
I'm always amazed how much bigger first instars look than the eggs they come out of; they must be tremendously compressed in there, or perhaps the new caterpillar is mostly air on the inside.
It probably ate the egg capsule for its first meal; I hope it will be satisfied with the stamen or pollen or a petal for the next day or two, because it's so small I'm reluctant to try to transfer it to a fresher rue blossom on a stem with leaves. (The annonyingly inappropriate black filament is probably a cat hair; they like to explore the work table).