i was scoping the garden yesterday for bloom day inspiration and came upon a surprise much more interesting than the few measly flowers that were blooming:
i certainly wasn’t expecting to see a giant swallowtail, freshly hatched, hunkered down in the foliage on a blustery (wind gusts 20-40 mph) and warm (77 degree) december day! i ran to the porch where i knew there were three swallowtail chrysali hanging and sure enough, one of them was open:
this is what the chrysali look like before they hatch (this was in a different part of the garden earlier this summer):
check out the super strong protein threads they suspend themselves from… these tiny details fascinate me! here’s an image of the caterpillar, foraging on mr. grwhryrpltd’s precious dwarf key lime tree, Citrus aurantifolia:
notice the giant caterpillar frass at the bottom left of the image above (yep, that’s insect poop). now you see why mr. grwhryrpltd isn’t so fond of them.
at one point there were 20 little caterpillars between that and another citrus tree (my precious buddha’s hand citron, Citrus medica var. sarcodactylus). by early november only half of the caterpillars survived, while the citrus trees kept producing new leaves. the day i got back from the quilt festival i noticed a mockingbird hanging out in the rose bush nearby. odd, because it was so close to the driveway and didn’t fly away when we drove up… but then i realized the bird was feasting on the plump caterpillars! i ran out of the car only to find one left, which had its orange antennae fully extended and inflated, exuding a sulphurous pheremone that i now recognize as their go-go-gadget-get-away-from-me defense mechanism. i picked it up anyway and tucked it down into the leaf mould beneath the hairy wedelia* for protection from that damn mockingbird, which i also made sure to shoo away. a week or so later i found three chrysali on the brick wall of the front porch and wondered when they’d hatch, if at all, with the sporadic weather we’ve been having. so it’s a understatement to say i was grateful to stumble upon the prettiest bloom all december…
it’s the simple things that amaze me. happy (belated, yet again) bloom day.
*hairy wedelia, (Wedelia texana a.k.a. zexmenia hispida) was one of the few measly flowers in bloom yesterday. it’s a native, tough and drought tolerant. and protective fodder for swallowtails.