Every May, The Natural History Museum in Los Angeles hosts an Insect Fair. This year, I came home with 2 Swallowtail caterpillars, which I named Armand (the larger one) and Augustine.
Back at home, I gently placed them on anise (fennel) from my garden, which stayed fresh in a small vase of water that I placed on my windowsill, out of direct sunlight. Caterpillars have powerful jaws that are ideal for biting through tough plant material. Armand and Augustine fed nonstop and put on weight quickly.
They ate their way through the anise until Augustine had enough and bound herself to a plant stem with silk that she produced. She shed her skin and spun a cocoon, another step towards her final transformation into an adult butterfly, which can take up to two weeks. Augustine is going through her transformation in a large netted bag suspended in the shade outside my kitchen. She is expected to emerge from her cocoon around June 7th. As soon as she does, I will release her.
While Augustine’s was busy making her cocoon, Armand went missing. I searched the entire area where he was last seen and I couldn’t find him. Then, 2 days later, he was spotted:
Armand had decided that he didn’t want to spin a cocoon on the anise like Augustine but preferred a wood shelf from Ikea instead. Armand has suspended himself among my Moroccan tagines dishes and wood bowls. As soon as he is ready to emerge, I will keep all the doors and windows open so he can safely fly out into my garden to look for Augustine.
Armand and Augustine will have to make the most of their time together as it will be a brief 3-4 weeks, during which they will have to mate and Augustine will lay her single sphere shaped egg, hopefully on the anise in the garden.
To attract butterflies to your garden, plant their favorite flowers:
Lantana (Lantana camara and hybrids), Butterfly bushes (Buddleia’s), Marigolds (tagetes species), Zinnias (Zinnia elegans), Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), Wild Buckwheats (Eriogonum species), Milkweeds (Asclepias series), Glossy Abelia (Abelia grandiflora) and Anise (Fennel).
Next month, I hope to share photos of Armand and Augustine! Stay tuned.