Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pawpaw Egg

I began searching for the first butterfly eggs last week, focusing on the Zebra Swallowtail.  Unlike many other species, the Zebra lay their eggs only on one plant species.  We have only a few places where they grow usually as small trees, so most of their early leaves are accessible.

I started with a grove of 25 small pawpaw which has produced results in the past.  I searched all the accessible leaves without any luck.  One leaf held a small nondescript insect larva, possibly an early instar of a moth species.  While I was trying to photograph it, a spider appeared on the leaf edge.

Soon the spider crossed the leaf and inspected the caterpillar at length.  Apparently it didn't pass the taste test as it left it alone.  I was about to give up when I saw a Zebra Swallowtail fly through the grove.  I decided to sit and wait a while.

After 20 minutes a Zebra returned, landing on three different leaves for only a second.  After it flew on I checked the leaves - no luck.  After another 20 minutes it returned, landed on the same leaf it had checked out before and curled its abdomen under the leaf.  When it flew away I checked the leaf and was rewarded with my first egg of the year.

There are two lessons from this.  Sitting quietly in the woods is relaxing and you may well be rewarded with something special.  Also, I have way too much time on my hands.

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