Field and Lab Notes

Yesterday was a beautiful day, sunny and reaching 31°C. I went out collecting and had some help from Isabellle Letourneau. We spent the morning out collecting. We caught a female at 10:30AM, and caught a few males too. Isa pointed it out as I was distracted by a large dragonfly that I thought might be some kind of darner species. The female was fluttering about 6 feet off the ground around some broad leaves on a tree at the edge of an early succession forest. I am becoming convinced that I can ID males and females based solely on their flight patterns. Here is what I have observed:
Males:  Fly quickly along flyways and tree lines, usually in more or less the same direction.  
Females: Flutter around broad leaves and nectar sources. Landing briefly from time to time.
In terms of the early instar caterpillars a few observations of note:
·         At least during the day they all seem to rest on the midrib of the leaf
·         Most, but not all, rest with their head pointing towards the stem of the leaf
·         Most seem to rest on leaves with little to no damage
·         Leaf damage seems to be mostly along the margins of the leaf stopping at the midrib
It will be interesting to see if these behaviours change as they progress through their instars. Here are some photos:

Including this new female I have 2 females now. The other female I’ve had for about a week now, but I have only seen 2 new eggs. Here is one:

Becasue of the limited number of eggs I am trying a new design to induce egg laying. The females also tend to damage their wings as they fluttering around the tree they are sleeved with. I cut some branches of Trembling Aspen and placed the cut ends in tied off bags of water. I laid these branches in a box and covered the box with a very fine mesh bag. Using cuttings isn’t ideal because the eggs take a few days to hatch and I suspect that they do better if they hatch on live leaves. I don’t know yet, but I can’t see the branches lasting more than 2-days before wilting, especially under a heat lamp (heat is supposed to help with egg laying too). Here is what it looks like:

I'm starting to wonder if I need to try hand-pairing the females. I might try this soon. Also, I have learned that the females won't always drink nectar even if placed directly on soaked cotton balls. I have literally been taking a fine metal wire and unfurling the female’s proboscis onto the nectar. Once you do this, they always drink their fill.

The basis for a some of the ideas in my set up (e.g., using cotton balls) came from this great website:

They seem to have had great success with Papilio rutulus. Check out this website for some solid tips and ideas for rearing Swallowtails.


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