Anise swallowtail butterfly from 2006!

I think I’ve mentioned here before that anise swallowtail butterflies don’t emerge from their chrysalises on a set timetable, like monarch butterflies do. George thinks that it’s probably to ensure better survival, so some of the adult butterflies will emerge pretty quickly – in a couple of weeks, but others hang out for much longer.  You can tell that they’re still alive by touching them gently – they move.

This photo collage I did for the butterfly exhibit in the El Cerrito Library shows the caterpillar getting ready to become a chrysalis (pupate) – that’s the top left. The bottom left and top right show how different the chrysalises can look, some bright green, and some drab brown. The bottom right one shows what the empty chrysalis looks like after the adult butterfly emerges. Anyway, we were so excited to see that the beautiful female that emerged today became a chrysalis way back in 2006!

She must have come out sometime during the night, because she was ready to go this morning. Since the weather is so nice, we put her outside on a yampah plant, that’s the native larval food source for anise swallowtails. While she was resting happily in the sun, I got this photo of her from the side, showing her head, including her eyes, proboscis (that’s what they sip liquid food through), and antennae.

We always hope that the females we raise and release will remember the plant and come back to lay eggs, so we can continue the cycle.

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4 comments on “Anise swallowtail butterfly from 2006!

  1. You guys are the best butterfly parents ever 🙂 And what a joy it is to get to see it all, via your excellent photos and narrative . . . and the way you turn the patterns into art. Your creativity abounds, woman!

  2. Linda Harbin says:

    What a beautiful story – with a beautiful ending too. I love the photos – she’s lovely. All our butterflies are blessed by you and your hubby!
    Linda Harbin

  3. Julie says:

    Heidi – not sure if you’ll see this comment but I’m looking for clarification – this butterfly was in chrysalis stage from 2006 – 2011?? I was googling because I have some anise swallowtail chrysalises that are only about 5 weeks or so old and I wasn’t sure if they were still viable. I read on another site that I could weigh them or see if they float in water but I’m reluctant to detach them.
    (ps – love your dragonfly photos!)

    • Heidi Rand says:

      Hi Julie, Yes – unlike monarch and some other butterflies, the anise swallowtails emerge at different times. We do have several chrysalises that have been hanging out for years. Yours are quite young and probably fine. You can tell whether they’re still alive by touching them very lightly – if they move a bit they’re viable. I never heard that about weighing them or floating them, but you’re right that it’s much better to leave them attached – they need to be in that position to emerge safely and if you detach them you’ll just have to work out a solution to get them attached again, which is risky. My husband isn’t sure why the different timelines, but assume it might have something to do with maximizing the chances of survival.

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