Thursday, 31 January 2019

Orchard Swallowtail Papilio aegeus

And now a garden butterfly.

There is no need to go bush in the heat to see butterflies as in the previous two posts. I was sitting on the verandah having a coffee when I saw this lady fly in over the shrubs and begin circling the lemon trees.

She was obviously looking for somewhere to lay her eggs as she was dipping into the foliage, landing here and there searching for the perfect spot. Then she took a break and caught some sun on her back for a few minutes. That was when I saw how ragged her wings were.

Especially her left hind wing. She was an old lady, probably laying the last of her eggs.

She concentrated her attention on the very tips of the youngest leaves, bending her abdomen as she clung to the leaf edges.

And that was where she left her eggs, precariously perched right on the edges. Out of reach of most predators, I expect.

This spot had been used before by someone else. She was busy on a leaf while an egg previously laid by another butterfly lay out of her sight - the tiny black speck. I think this was an egg laid by a butterfly I watched laying eggs on the same tree a few days ago - a Dainty Swallowtail Papilio anactus. The egg is dark because the larva inside is well developed and likely to hatch imminently. Both species of swallowtail are common throughout the east of Australia and we have them in the garden every year.

Meanwhile over on another leaf, once I began looking carefully for more eggs, I found this teeny weeny caterpillar, c3 mm long, a first instar of a Dainty Swallowtail, I think. It is so small I can hardly make out any characteristics. Although the colouring, like a bird dropping, fits that of a young larva of the swallowtail species. This one had probably only hatched that day, eaten its eggshell and was now on the prowl for fresh greenery to eat. Hence the adults selecting the freshest leaves to lay their eggs on.

After a while the old lady flew over to the shady trees and landed on the foliage, taking a rest after her hard work? I'll watch over her offspring for her.

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