Santa Clarita and Northern Los Angeles County Area
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Pipevine Swallowtail [Battus philenoa hirsuta] Rearing Images

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I kept some freshly emerged adults well fed for a day or so after emerging, then attempted to hand pair them. It took a little effort but after a couple of attempts, they stayed together for nearly an hour.

Knowing that butterflies prefer to oviposit in warm sunny conditions, I configured a cage and desk light to simulate those conditions as closely as I could. Butterflies also tend to fly towards bright light in captivity, so I pinned a sprig of Pipevine host plant on the side of the cage with the light so that when the female went to it she would make contact with the host plant. She spent a number of days in this cage but laid no eggs. It took nearly a week, and she had all but beaten her wings to shreds before the first ova appeared. Apparently it takes her a while to "grow" the eggs, once mated.

She survived for longer than 2 weeks and laid quite a few eggs. These images show the cage setup (the light is a 23w CF), the rather worn female feeding, and the ova - an interesting orange-green color.

It took less than a week for the eggs to hatch, resulting in these gregarious little caterpillars. Some high-magnification images of the 1st instars are shown...

Video taping these critters takes a lot patience, and some odd-ball engineering setups to get the macro shots without having expensive equipment. These images show the JVC Digital Camcorder with a jeweler's eyeloupe taped to the lense to increase the magnification substantially. You can see the egg hatching time lapse sequence here: Battus philenor Life Cycle

Here, a group of 1st instars is molting into 2nd instar. Note the darker color.

These little caterpillars eat a lot of food and grow rapidly. It didn't take this group long to molt into 3rd instar. In one image, you can see them hiding together in a "worm pile" under the leaf. I turned the leaf over to get the next shot.

Some freshly-molted 4th instars are shown here...

And finally, 5th instar. Note the velvety-black color with the bright orange "feelers". These soft, fleshy projections make the larva look somewhat like a centipede, and also seem to be used to detect objects. They appear to be quite sensitive and cause the larva to pull away when touched.

These caterpillars reached maturity in about 4 weeks. Here you can see them spinning their pads and loops to suspend themselves for pupation.

Here are the completed pupae, seen here overwintering. Note the variation in color. The caterpillar chooses the pupal color at pupation time, to match the surrounding environment.

These close-up images show various pupae in detail. As the adult inside develops, it's wings and body can be seen through the pupal shell.

Be sure and see the complete life cycle video on YouTube:

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