Berkeley Butterfly Ranch


One of Kate’s sideline projects the past couple of years–part of her elementary school science teaching–has been to raise anise swallowtail caterpillars to the point where they go into the chrysalis, then harbor the chrysalides until the butterflies emerge. It’s not easy. We had a couple of chrysalides on the back porch that some predator–a bird, probably–came and picked off. After that, Kate improvised some netting to protect the five remaining caterpillars, which in due course changed to chrysalis form.

The last of them changed probably a month ago, and what we’ve had, first on the sometimes very warm back porch and then in a shadier spot in a side yard, is a green plastic box with some sticks in it that have had some dead-looking mummy-type things hanging from them. Honestly–when you look at these objects, it’s a little hard to believe anything living can emerge from them. But we’ve been checking every morning anyway.

Yesterday, a surprise: a newly metamorphosed anise swallowtail butterfly, perched on one of the net-supporting hoops in the green box. We were headed out for the afternoon, but we lifted the netting to give it a chance to fly away when it was ready. When we got home, well after dark, it was gone. I’d like to think it got a chance to feed and perhaps eluded for a few hours anyway whatever out there in the world will look at it and see food. I’d like to think that it might find a like-minded anise swallowtail of the opposite sex and get a shot at perpetuating their kind.

Long damn odds, but beautiful to behold.


Filed under Berkeley, Science

4 Responses to Berkeley Butterfly Ranch

  1. Rob

    Lovely creatures, aren’t they? They must be related to the Tiger Swallowtails I have here.

  2. jb

    It’s a lot of fun raising these guys. And they are beautiful. Nice work. Our cecropias spun their cocoons at the beginning of September. They won’t be back until spring.

  3. Dan

    Yeah, it’s a kind of slow-motion fun. I never knew caterpillars, um, pooped so much.

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