Category Archives: Eggs

Egg Laying… Not just for the Birds!

"Do you have time for bon bons?" Asked Mother Robin of the Butterfly.

Monarch Butterfly Egg

Giant Sulphur Butterfly Egg

In nature, when it comes to motherhood and eggs, the female butterfly soars with the best of them. Although, she may not have to sit on her wee ones for 12-14 hours a day, as the Robin does, she will devote almost her entire existence to being an expert egg layer.

Butterfly eggs come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Depending on the species of butterfly, the eggs could be rounded or pointy, they could be brown, white, pink, blue or green, they could be laid singularly, in twos or in groups of a hundred at a time. All these factors and many more come into play as the female butterfly chooses where and when to deposit her tiny specs of life.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Egg

Question Mark Butterfly Eggs

Green eggs go on green leaves, as camouflage is important to defend from predators. Pointy eggs may be laid in groups, because there is safety in numbers. The correct, safe and healthy, host plant must be found and on it the perfect leaf must be present or my babies may not survive. So much for eating bon bons or fluttering about without a care in the world!

In a brief and dangerous season of life, female butterflies have to work skillfully and quickly to ensure the survival of their species. Like many of the other mommies found in the natural world, their efforts are to be valued and are not just for the birds!

To learn more about Female Butterflies and their Eggs visit the OWB Dimension pages 

Others labor from sun to sun but a Mother's work in never done! ~ Unknown

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Smoking Swallowtails? Dutchman’s Pipevine Butterflies gone wild…

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) on Pink Saliva

A male pipevine swallowtail attempts to flirt with a female as she lays her eggs...

I recently visited a grove where the Pipevine Swallowtail’s host plant, the Dutchman’s Pipevine, grew vigorously. Here, in this shaded and otherwise peaceful wood, there was a state of butterfly pandemonium happening.

Male butterflies zealously chased female butterflies hoping to strike up a romance. The maternally driven ladies ignored the amorous males advances, and instead, tirelessly their laid eggs.

 

Female Pipevine Butterflies Laying Eggs

Other winged chaps spent their time attempting to defend their precious territories. Boldly these fellows chased their counterparts about the treetops, creating flashes of brilliant blue which rivaled the skies above. Stoic females continued to cooly oviposit, again, dismissing out of wing, the males showy displays.

The forest was a frenzy of flutter! Everywhere I stood I was bombarded by the scuttle of a wing. It was courtship chaos where no basking perch, nectar blossom nor host tendril was safe!

Are these Pipevine Swallowtail ingesting their host plant or smoking it?

The pipevine butterflies exhibited crazed mating and reproductive behaviors, as if they had all gone wild with passion. In no other species have I observed the sexes acting out their respective roles in such a fervent manner.

Made me wonder for a moment, if these swallowtail caterpillars had actually smoked, instead of ingested their host plant, the Dutchman’s Pipevine?

This hardy vine does, after all, as it’s name suggests, resemble a Dutchman’s pipe. When in bloom it flaunts, amongst it’s green-hearted foliage, oddly shaped flowers which form in an appearance similar to that of a dutchman’s pipe.

Dutchman's Pipevine (Aristolochia gigantea)

Male Pipevine on Purple Penstemon

Whatever the motivation, pipes or genetics, what was going on in the grove that day was nothing short of spectacular to behold for the butterfly enthusiast. Pipevine swallowtails are indeed vibrant and entertaining creatures at every stage of their development.

Years ago, when less exotic planting choices where available at local nurseries, people commonly grew Dutchman’s Pipevine in their gardens. Often they used it to cover and adorn porches, arbors and fences. Pipevine swallowtails could then be found more frequently in populated areas, even in urban neighborhoods.

To ensure the survival of this species be sure to plant Dutchman’s Pipevine somewhere in your yard. Keep Mother Nature’s show going! Support her dramatic and colorful productions. Then just sit back under your vine shaded porch, sway gently on your swing and enjoy the show… and your Pipe?… vine too! KD

Male Pipevine on Yellow Yarrow

Click the  Pipevine’s Wing below to learn more about this swallowtail…

Pipevine Swallowtail Wing

 

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Butterfly Gardening With Manure Tea

Butterfly GardenNothing has sparked more life back into my tired (hum, or am I talking about me?) butterfly garden than Haven Brand Manure Tea!  This is not tea for drinking, but a blend of natural manure made from pesticide and antibiotic free, grass fed livestock from the Haven Ranch in San Juan Capistrano, California. Realizing the demand from local farmers for her natural soil fertilizer, Annie Haven, of Haven Ranch came up with a wonderful way to package up her naturally rich soil conditioners for the home gardener.

Pipevine SwallowtailHaven Brand manure teas keep my butterfly gardening blooming all year with lots of flowering nectar plants to feed the butterflies that visit my garden and enough healthy vegetation to feed all my “very hungry caterpillars“.  To read more about which plants caterpillars like to eat, visit our Butterfly Host Plants page.

Master magician, munching to and fro, a caterpillar works illusions til’ the end of his show ~K. D’Angelo

Western Tiger Swallowtail

There is no a better way to entice butterflies into your garden then with healthy, butterfly nectar and host plants.

Female butterflies have evolved to be very picky individuals when it comes to laying their eggs. Even when a prospective plant feels, tastes and smells just like the right species, it may be rejected by the female butterfly for a variety of reasons.  It may be to exposed to the elements. It may be to wet? Fungus could grow here! It may be to hot? The eggs might dry up? Evidence of competition may also be present. Chewed leaves mean less food available. Healthy plants means more food available for her young munching offspring. Even the prospective plant may be out to trick the female butterfly by displaying “false eggs” which advertise “no vacancy” here!

Lorquin's Admiral Egg on WillowWhat’s a mother to do? On average a female butterfly may visit up to 10 prospective host plants before picking the perfect one! Even after she has made her choice, she may spend up to 9 hours surveying and selecting precise leaves on which to deposit her eggs. You couldn’t ask for a more spectacular show then watching a female butterfly dance upon your butterfly garden for hours.

A concerned mother plans for her children’s future! She lays her eggs diligently. Depending on the species she may lay them singularly or in a group. She may lay them on the underside of a leaf or in a crevasse. Most always she lays them on the most tender leaves. She may use the simple eye” on her abdomen to lay on the tip of a twisted tendril.

Butterfly Garden Real Estate SignA female butterfly is not a Realtor, but she might as well be. Location is everything to her! Location, location, an investment in her species future…

Haven Brand Manure TeaHaven Brand Manure Teas or as Annie Haven says “Moo Poo” teas are odor free and come pre-measured and ready to brew in its own gauze draw-string pouch. It’s so easy to make brew up a jar of this miracle liquid fertilizer, just fill a container with up to five gallons of water, drop in a tea bag and let it “steep” for a day or two.  Water your indoor or outdoor plants with the brew and in no time, you’ll be rewarded with bigger, healthier plants, fruits, vegetables  and flowers!

You can find Haven Brand Natural Tea Soil Conditioners online at HavenBrand.com

Enjoy the butterflies,

Vickie

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Raising Painted Lady Butterflies

Painted Lady Butterflies

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

Painted Lady Butterflies are one of the most widely distributed butterflies in the world, they can be found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. Migration and the wide range of available host plants is what helps make the painted ladies so widely distributed.  The larvae (caterpillars) of Painted Ladies feed on more than 100 types of host plants, particularly Thistles (Asteraceae), Mallows (Malvaceae) which include Hollyhock (Alcea) and Cheeseweed (parviflora).

Girl Holding Painted Lady Butterfly

Mackenzie’s Butterfly

Painted Ladies are one of the easiest butterflies to raise because not only will the young larvae feed on so many different host plants, they will also feed on a specially formulated artificial diet.  This artificial diet makes it possible for the larvae to be sold in butterfly rearing kits and are often raised and studied in classrooms by elementary students.  The popularity of “Butterfly Larvae Rearing Kits” has also contributed to the distribution of these beautiful and abundant butterflies.

It’s fun and easy to raise Painted Lady Butterflies and rearing butterflies is truly an educational experience that every child will certainly enjoy and remember for years to come.  The easiest way to raise Painted Lady Butterflies is by purchasing a Butterfly Rearing Kit.

Butterfly Rearing Kit

Butterfly Rearing Kit

One of the most popular kits is made by Insect Lore, the kits include a reusable pop-up butterfly habitat, artificial diet and easy to follow instructions. The kits don’t actually contain any butterfly larvae, you will need to mail or FAX the enclosed coupon to Insect Lore, once you receive the larva in the mail, the fun begins!

The larvae will feed on the artificial diet for about 10 to 14 days and when they are ready, they will begin to crawl to the top of the food container. Once they have securely attached themselves to the top of the container, they will begin their miraculous metamorphic change, shedding their skin one last time to expose the their final layer, which is known as the chrysalis.  At which time you can transfer the lid with the attached chrysalises to the butterfly habitat.

Painted Lady Butterfly Eggs

Tiny Blue Eggs of the Painted Lady Butterfly

In about 10 to 14 days, your beautiful painted lady butterflies will emerge from their chrysalises.  You will get to enjoy watching the butterflies in the butterfly habitat.  To extend the fun and life of your newly emerged butterflies, you can feed the butterflies by providing fresh flowers for nectar and variety of fruits, like slices of banana, peach, cherries, watermelon and oranges.

After a few days in captivity, you may consider adding one of the butterfly host plants I mentioned above and you will certainly be rewarded with an ample supply of tiny blue butterfly eggs!  Make sure you will have an ample supply of pesticide free host plants to feed the hatchlings, if not or you can order some ready-made artificial diet from our butterfly gift shop.

Painted Lady Butterfly Larvae

Win A Painted Lady Butterfly Larvae Kit

If you’ve already had the pleasure of raising painted lady butterflies and already have a butterfly habitat, you will be able to simply order a butterfly refill larvae kit for your butterfly enclosure.

At anytime you may want to release your adult painted lady Butterflies into your backyard, local park or butterfly garden.

To learn more about butterfly gardening for the benefit of butterflies, visit our Butterfly Gardening web page!

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O’ Cassia Tree, O’ Cassia Tree…

christmas cassia cutChristmas Cassia w sulphur redwebbord

O’ Cassia Tree, O’ Cassia Tree, how lovely are your branches…

Where some female Sulphurs are concerned, the verse above should read, how lovely are your blossoms. The brilliant yellow buds found on a blooming Cassia plant, are number one on these gals’ Christmas lists.

Christmas Cassia (Cassia bicapsularis), a vigorous, evergreen winter bloomer, decorates itself in golden blossoms of sunshine for the holiday season. It, along with several others, such as Desert Cassia (Cassia polyphylla) and Candlestick Cassia (Senna alata) serve as hosts to a variety of Sulphurs (Colias), including the Cloudless (Phoebis sennae) and several species of Oranges and Yellows.

Although female Sulphurs will place their tiny offspring upon the green foliage of the Cassia plant, they much prefer to set their eggs down upon its tender buds. Here, a newly emerged caterpillar can climb into a safe sun colored burrow which will provide him with food and shelter.

christmas butterfly blogThe lovely saffron flowers showcased by Christmas Cassias and others alike, are not only cherished by the female butterflies, but by their young as well. Sulphur caterpillars prefer to feed on Cassia’s bright petals, mimicking their yellow color while doing so.

Then, like a Christmas miracle, when the favored florets are gone and the green foliage must be consumed, Sulphur caterpillars miraculously turn a verdant hue. And, almost as if attempting a keepsake, often they retain, in the form of a yellow stripe, just a hint of the flowers they so adored.

To learn and see more about Sulphur caterpillars click the flower bud found at the end of this blog.

O’ Cassia Tree, O’ Cassia Tree, how lovely are your blossoms!

Christmas Cassia in Bloom

Christmas Cassia in Bloom

christmas cassia cut2

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Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

three snowflakes

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is the most adaptable to change. – Charles Darwin

Anise Swallowtail Chrysalis

Survival of the Chrysalis...This Anise Swallowtail chrysalis will just have to hang with the cool weather until the spring rays return.

Bronze Copper Butterfly Egg

Mom laid this Bronze Copper butterfly egg safely nestled in some dried leaves, close to where its host plant will come up in the spring.

butterfly snowflake 2

When reflecting on butterflies, visions of warm sunshiny days may fill one’s mind. It is not usual to think of a butterfly and to also invoke images of such things as snow, sleet or sub-zero temperatures. Many species of butterflies, however, have had to, over time, consider, adapt to and survive such wintry conditions.

It is true that some butterflies, such as the well known Monarch, spread their wings and flutter south to escape Old Man Winter, but various others are not so flighty. Take, for example, the Bronze Copper, it withstands the cool weather as a wee little egg. Curled-up leaves, buried deep beneath the snow, create the ideal escape and lodging for caterpillars such as Tawny Emperors, Fritillaries, Crecents and Checkerspots.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Mourning Cloak butterflies need to find shelter in a wood pile or under some bark to survive the first frost.

Swallowtails, Sulphurs and Whites, bear the hardships of winter by hiding out and undergoing metamorphosis as a chrysalis. Red-Spotted Purples and other Admirals build their very own shelter, called a hibernaculum. This is a miniature abode made just for hibernating as its name suggests. Mourning Cloaks, Commas and Question Marks, face the wintertide as adult butterflies. They look for a place to safely hibernate, seeking such refuges as wood piles or tree bark.

Which ever way they do it, hats, scarves and mittens off to the amazingly adaptable butterflies who endure Jack Frost’s torment. Come springtime, I think I can speak for all, in saying how grateful we are for your tenacious and triumphant perseverance!

butterfly snowflake 2

Twany Emperor Caterpillar

A Tawny Emperor caterpillar searches for a cozy curled leaf where it can safely hibernate under a blanket of snow.

A Red-Spotted Purple caterpillar emerges from its self-made winter shelter or hibernaculum.

A Red-Spotted Purple caterpillar emerges from its self-made winter shelter or hibernaculum.

three snowflakes

butterflies sunflower snow

Above are photographs of the butterflies featured pictorially in this blog, going clockwise… Red Spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis), Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton), Bronze Copper (Lycaena hyllus) & Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) at center.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!


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Recipe for Sunshine…

Ever wondered how to make sunshine? Mother Nature knows how!

Below is “her” recipe for the Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly…


Start with an itsy bitsy egg. Set it on the tenderest bud of a Cassia senna plant until it turns the color of sunshine.

cloudless cat tiny

Then watch closely as the egg comes to life and a tiny bright caterpillar emerges.

Let the little yellow guy munch away at the Cassia senna plant for as long as he likes.

cloudless caterpillars

Notice how he grows bigger and then begins to flaunt the green hues of his host plant.

He leaves just a touch a of his sunshine showing through in his stripe.

Now spy him turn curiously into the letter J.

And magically mimic a lovely leaf.

Then Voila, Out comes the Sunshine…

Enjoy!

Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly (Phoebis sennae)

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Wow! A Western Tiger Swallowtail egg!!!

After years of searching… I finally found a Western Tiger Swallowtail egg!

western egg on wing

All fellow “butterfly egg hunters” out there should understand why a celebration of sorts is in order! Butterfly eggs in general can be hard to come by, especially when you are at the mercy of Mother Nature, but the Western Tiger Swallowtail’s eggs seem to be particularly, well, quite literally, out of reach.

Sycamores, Willows and Cottonwoods, the Western Tiger Swallowtail’s ( Papilio rutulus ) host plants, are not only typically abundant in source, but also grow large in structure. This makes the prospect of obtainng a Western Tiger’s egg nothing short of finding a needle in a very, very big haystack.

western tiger swallowtail

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures!

Western Tiger Swallowtails are common in the rural areas of Southern California. Often they can be seen fluttering high near the canopies of their favorite host plants, especially native  California Sycamores ( Platanus racemosa ). Other than reverting to my childhood days of tree dwelling, I can think of no other way to seek out and acquire a Tiger Swallowtail’s egg. Once, while driving, I noticed a Sycamore that had recently been struck down and was laying along the roadside. Admittedly, crazily, I pulled over my car and looked over the trees foliage for eggs, but, much to my disappointment, found none.

I don’t know if  Lady Luck decided to have a chat with Mother Nature or not, but for whatever reason, last week she finally resolved to shine upon me. My good friend and fellow confessed “butterfly egg hunter” actually spied a Western Tiger female laying eggs near her home. Next thing I knew the ladder was in my car and then I was high up in branches of several lush Sycamore trees searching the leaves for eggs.

Like many butterflies, I sought to camouflage myself by wearing earthy hued colors, such as green and brown. I also kept an over-sized hat on, hoping no one would recognize me and might instead mistake me for some over zealous gardener. I searched in the canopies for sometime, then just as I was about to fold up my wobbly ladder and go home I found what I had been hunting for.

Wow!!!… Finally, a Western Tiger Swallowtail egg!!!! It was just sitting there topside, upon a sizable leaf, perfectly disguised amongst the spotted patterns typical of the Sycamore. I had always thought that female butterflies preferred to lay their eggs on the soft new growth of their host plant, but not in this case.

Here, mama clearly opted for the covert over cushy and also, possibly due to her size, choose to lay the egg at the base of a considerable leaf which could sustain her body weight. Whatever the circumstances, I was glad to have found the egg! I am hoping to watch the caterpillar which emerges from it go through full metamorphosis, but am most looking forward to seeing it fly off as a lovely swallowtail butterfly into the canopies from which it came. -K.D’Angelo

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