|A Beautiful Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly|
My current story started a 6 or 7 years ago when I had planted a Calico Flower/Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia elegans) in the yard. It grew huge, with strange, spotted pinkish flowers. One day I went out and saw several huge caterpillars munching the leaves. At that time, I was not raising the plants as caterpillar food, and I was a little upset to see my marvelous flowers being chewed back to the stems! But I got over it as I realized what I'd attracted to the yard.
|Gold Rim Swallowtail Caterpillars|
I observed them every day as they ate and grew. The eggs had been laid over several days, so their development was staggered. The first clutch would reach a milestone and the others followed the next days in order.
6 days in, they molted for the first time. As they outgrow their old skin cover, or "cuticle", they shed it and form a new one. They will go through 5 stages as caterpillars, called "Instars". After the 5th Instar, they molt into their chrysalis. After this first molt, they started to exhibit characteristics that made me fairly certain they were Pipevine caterpillars. For one thing, they had rather long fleshy appendages near their heads which I didn't see in photos of the Gold Rims. Also, I just wanted to have attracted Pipevines!
|Day 6 (See shed molts off to the upper right)|
|Oh no! Dead vine (with old cuticles stuck to underside)|
|Day 10, Molt #2|