Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Orangetip update

Many insects have subdued coloring, meant to blend with the background at least to some degree. The Falcate Orangetips mean to stand out, the male with his orange wingtips on a white field, the female, when she arrives a couple of weeks later, with her pure white. In the very early spring the woods are still the dark brown of the trunks and leafless undergrowth. These delicate butterflies are like lights, that catch your eye from any distance. They are the perfect signs of spring. All the while that they are flying, the leaves are unfolding and turning the landscape into the fresh green that characterizes the season. Long before mature leaves harden into the green of summer the Orangetips will be gone.

When I wrote about the Orangetips earlier I included pictures of a female egg-laying, and a picture of an egg. I'll repeat those pictures here, as a reminder.

These are tiny butterflies with very tiny eggs, which I had a hard time keeping track of, but Cheryl with her sharp eyes kept checking, and yesterday found some action. Here is one so recently hatched it is still carrying the egg on the tip of its tail.

 And here is one that has reached its second instar, and has some marking and color. It is still only a few mm. long.

Now, if I am remembering correctly, here is their life history: These caterpillars will go on munching for a short time, and then, only half grown, they will go into diapause and not appear again until early next spring, when they will complete their metamorphosis and have their day in the sun (when they are mating, the pair remains joined for twenty-four hours). Appropriately, these avatars of spring will experience spring twice, and miss the other three seasons of the year completely.

In the meantime, and this will be much easier to see and keep track of, the milkweed plants in our yard are slowly becoming encrusted with Monarch eggs.

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