It has been almost a year since I first learnt about the dainty swallowtail butterfly. Last summer this beautiful butterfly could be seen fluttering around our vegetable garden where we had planted some zinnias.
The butterflies laid their eggs on our citrus trees and we were lucky enough to find several growing caterpillars. In an attempt to ensure their survival they were collected and kept in a large storage contain that I had set up to house them. You can read about it here.
Unfortunately a couple of the smaller caterpillars died before forming their chrysalis. Maybe the weather might have turned cold a little bit too quick for them!
Once all of the others were safely tucked away in their chrysalis there was not much that we could do for them over winter. We kept their container (ventilated lid) outside but undercover and only had to check on them every now and again.
As the weather warmed we checked them more often and unfortunately discovered that a couple had died. It was possible to see that they had transformed into a butterfly but had not emerged properly. Perhaps they had tried to emerge from their chrysalis to early, we’ll never know!
We had a wet winter but as spring arrived the air dried so I misted the container to keep the chrysalises moist.
In late November (last month of spring) we were excited to see the first of four dainty swallowtail butterflies emerge. It was so amazing to see them slowly flapping their wings to dry them off. After a couple of hours it was clear that they were eager to fly free so we released them into the open.
Below is a video I took of a recently emerged butterfly holding on to his chrysalis and drying his wings.
This year I have seen some flying around the zinnias and our citrus trees. They love laying their eggs on the new growth of the citrus trees. I always say hello and wonder if they are the ones we released or if they managed to survive the winter on their own.
This year I will collect some more dainty swallowtail butterfly caterpillars during autumn and help them survive till next spring!
If you are also interest in looking after the butterflies in your garden feel free to check out the following links:
Sustainable Gardening Australia: Butterflies
Butterfly Conservation South Australia
DIY Garden: The Ultimate Guide to Butterflies & How to Prevent Their Decline (UK focus)
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