Buckeye Ladies

So my hopes of raising a second generation of Buckeye caterpillars were dashed when all my butterflies turned out to be ladies.

cooccons

Nonetheless, the transformation has been fun to observe in this dreary winter. The caterpillars one by one made their way to a spot in the enclosure and spun their sticky silk,

pupating

After 16 days in my home all were fully cocooned.

cocoons

After 13 days (day 25 in my home), the first started hatching, curiously not the first caterpillar that had pupated but another one.

emerging

They all pop out so quickly and quietly that catching them mid-emergence is difficult to do.

mixedsiblings

The last one, on day 28, gave me its wasp-y look though, and kept dropping to the floor as it tried to unfurl its wings, but its floppy wings took shape after a few minutes nonetheless.

hatchling

Empty cocoons.

emptyshells

My firstborn had gorgeous eyespots.

favored

The others each had distinct looks.

Grown

It takes a couple of days before they are ready to eat, but watching the proboscis is such fun when they do.

feeding

frontalview

My fifth-born turned out to be a rosa.

rose

They love sunlight and eagerly walk ceilings to get to it.

ceilingwalkers

Trying to distinguish sexes became a dirty affair as they defended themselves with extrement (it makes sense that butterflies poop, doesn’t it?).

BuckeyPoo

But all bodies looked the same, so I am pretty sure they all were females in this batch.

cluster

How to tell? Male Buckeyes are supposed to be smaller than the females, they should have whiter antennae, their hind wing eye spots are supposed to be smaller, and their rears more ‘square’ than pointy. None of these factors were distinctive on my 6, and they all stuck their rears in the air, which is generally a female butterfly mating call.

smile

Photographing was fun, though not all were willing posers.

BuckeyeCamera

Since I wasn’t going to raise new babies, I immortalized a few in the freezer before they became too tattered.

underwing

One is still fluttering, but the second one breathed its last on Wednesday (day 58).

tattered

It is nice to have such quiet and easy to care for pets.

caged

Note: This breed of Buckeye cannot be released in my home state, which is why I didn’t feel bad about having them in a cold season when they are going to remain in captivity. During the summer I plan on ordering kits that will be released into the neighborhood to hopefully repopulate some of the scarcer butterfly breeds (the Monarch in particular).

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