Exactly one week ago it was still winter with freezing temperatures and fresh snow. Last Sunday the snow melted and in the afternoon spring arrived. I've rarely experienced such a big difference!
After some warmer days nature has awakened and I was glad that some caterpillar nests of the Glanville Fritillary survived winter. Unfortunately their enemies survived the winter too as around almost each nest I noticed a parasitoid wasp.
Some of them were already busy infecting a caterpillar en some of them were sitting in the grass around the nest. I guess that it is no coincidende from mother nature that the wasps (I assume pteromalus puparum) have the same colours as the caterpillars...black with red eyes.
After an absence of almost three weeks, I inspected my vegetable garden and found out that the cabbage area is a battlefield. In all kind of sizes I found caterpillars of the Large White and one caterpillar of the Small White.
Eating any cabbage I can forget like every year.....I love this little creatures so the cabbage is for them. I must be content with some red tomatoes!
Nature it's on her best at the moment! Next to birds, deers also butterflies giving 'birth' to the next generation. Wherever I look, I find caterpillars, their enemies and other little creatures!
Wanda (my shepard) hates them....actually not them but me walking slowly through the forest and searching for them. In almost every Alder Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) caterpillars are living:
Unfortunately all the caterpillars of Red Admiral which I found in my garden were parasited. When I unfold the nettle leaf I noticed an opening at one cocoon and a few minutes later I witnessed the emergence of a parasitoid wasp. The newborn wasp flew to a higher nettle leaf and allowed me one image before she flew away to search for new victims:
At the moment it's caterpillar time outside! In the last two weeks during my walks with Wanda I found at least thousand caterpillars in two area's. Leading is the Map Butterfly (after 25 caterpillar nests I stopped counting them) followed by the Red Admiral (on almost every nettle plant I found a caterpillar). In my own garden I found at least 25 caterpillars of the Red Admiral and two caterpillar nests of the Map Butterfly. More by surprise I found one caterpillar of the Comma Butterfly and again I had the hope to finish my 'battle' which started in 1999 (see/read my chapter metamorphosises). Last year I had two caterpillars of this species but one was parasitized and the other emerged during the night. In 2014 I missed the emergence process as the butterfly was 'born' during the night.
So I was very happy with this new chance and very soon after I found the caterpillar he started to search for a good place to transform into a chrysalis.
Unfortunately my Comma Battle will continue as this beautiful caterpillar was parasitized and an ugly larva hatched from my one and only comma chrysalis!
A few days before my holiday started (almost three weeks ago) I noticed three female Holly Blue butterflies on my two big Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) plants. In the evening I discovered one fresh egg and marked this place. When I returned last weekend, I found a caterpillar near the marked place and after the inspection of the complete plants I found a second caterpillar and four other empty eggs. Two days later I wanted to photograph the caterpillars but although the stem was marked, it took a long time before I found them back.....they had switched the stem and due to their 'simular to the flower' colour they were almost invisible.
One caterpillar, the left one was eating between the pink flowers was coloured more red and the other one, the right one, was eating the green flowerbuds on the top of the stem and was more greenish. When the first caterpillar was ready to search for a nice place to pupate, his colour had changed again and between the leaves he was again not visible.
Although I know that nature is that clever, I'm impressed and fascinated again!
A lot of fennel was growing in the meadows of the accomodation in France and with a lot I mean hundreds of plants. So it was no surprise that the Swallowtail was a regular visitor and that the females were laying eggs. But when I liked to photograph an egg a few days later the egg was gone; instead I found some fat ants. I watched this proces, called nature, some days and decided to intervene. I took some fennel with yellow eggs and put it outside in the window-sill of the accomodation. Afer a few day, more by accident, I noticed a little dark spot and after I found my glasses I noticed that the dark spot was a hatching egg. With my MP-E 65 mm I could follow the birth but there was too much wind outside to photograph this proces. After the birth this tiny little caterpillar started to eat the egg shell and inbetween he took a break....time for me to make some photos. Ever tried to photograph something with a longer shuttertime on a fennel leaf?
The leaves of fennel are always in motion. After some photos I relooked them in the screen of my camera and could see that the tiny caterpillar started in the choosen (higher) position and after some shots he was that low that I needed to change again the compositon. Fortunately I had enough time that day to repeat that proces again and again and again. I'm happy that I can add this young caterpillar (5:1 magnification) to my personal Swallowtail image collecion.
A little introduction for the non-Dutch people: AH is the abbreviation of Albert Heijn which is one of the biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands. In February and March this year, for every 15 Euro, I received some vegetable seeds to create my own vegetable garden.
After a lot of caretaking, I now have a lot of tomatoes and all stages of all Dutch white species. Their favourite of all vegetable/cabbage plants is broccoli. They ‘adore’ the leaves and some caterpillars have no problems with devouring all yellow flowers of the broccoli.
A nest of about sixty caterpillars of the Large White I found in their third skin; a few days later I decided to take them inside and feed them on my kitchen table.
After almost a week I found out that none of these caterpillars was infected by the White Butterfly Parasite (a wasp with the name Cotesia glomerata). That is a remarkable fact as normally a big part of the caterpillars is parasitised.
A second notable fact was that the caterpillars did not accept little branches or other dead natural material which I offered them; a big part of the caterpillars pupated in a group on the plastic of the insect box and the other part on the green broccoli leaves. Fortunately one caterpillar transformed into a pupa on a day I did not have to work (see sequence 1).
In the meantime I found an other caterpillar nest of the Large White on broccoli and some new eggs of the Green-veined White and/or Small White but they have to survive outside as I have no more space available on my kitchen table!
On the day of arrival in the Provence I found a tiny little caterpillar of the Swallowtail on one of the wild Fennel plants. For me not a special species so actually I had not in mind to spend a blog about the Swallowtail. I checked the caterpillar every morning and evening on my ‘butterfly route’. Ten days later when the caterpillar was grown he was resting in the fennel and two new eggs were laid. I really considered to replace him as I was afraid that he would eat the eggs….when I checked the fennel plant the same evening again the complete fennel stalk including eggs were gone.
11 Months ago I found on my Annual Honnesty (Lunaria annua) a tiny little caterpillar of the Orange-tip. Annual Honnesty is their favorite foodplant next to Garlic Mustard; both plants are growing everywhere in my garden so I'm finding almost every year caterpillars.
10 Months ago this caterpillar was at least twice the size and transformed into a chrysalis and hibernated outside in my garden until a few days ago:
A female Orange-tip was born and it is interesting to see how the butterfly unfold the soft wings. The drying proces of the wings takes more than one hour but once she was ready, she flew away.....I hope to find the next generation in a few weeks on the Annual Honesty!
On metamorphosis -> Orange-tip you can find the complete sequence.
Jibt dir dit Leben mal een Buff, denn weene keene Träne. Lach Dir'n Ast und setz Dir druff und baumle mit de Beene.