Saturday, February 28, 2009

Full Cycle (should be dated 11 November 2008)

Judi got started in butterflies with Black Swallowtail eggs and tiny caterpillars on dill, fennel, and parsley plants that she brought home from local nurseries, especially Sun Harbor Nursery. She hatched out these eggs and raised the caterpillars to chrysalises, and released the butterflies as they emerged from their chrysalises. Along the way, of course, she added Monarches, Gold-rimmed Swallowtails, Queens, many varieties of Sulfurs, and others. But those Black Swallowtails were the first.

Then, I guess it was in late September, 2008, Judi was standing on the deck and a Black Swallowtail flew over and started circling around her. I was there, I saw it: The Swallowtail started around her knees and flew around her in a tight spiral, maybe a foot from her body, circling up. It rose above her head and then began spiraling back down. She stood completely motionless, arms and legs in, while the butterfly circled back to about knee level and then spiraled back up, and then reversed and spiraled back down again, circling her over and over.

We had never seen this kind of behavior before, and instantly I knew what it meant:

This was one of Judi's Black Swallowtails, that she had fed and raised and finally held in her hand and on her finger and then released. And it knew her.

Then the Swallowtail flew off, and of course we followed her, and she flew over to a fennel plant and, while we watched, began to lay eggs.

This butterfly that Judi had raised and released had returned and was laying eggs.

Well of course those eggs were taken into protective custody, and they hatched, and Judi raised those caterpillars to chrysalises. And then, and then, on November 11th, the first butterfly emerged from those chrysalises.

For Judi, this was her first "full cycle": A butterfly raised from an egg laid by a butterfly that in turn Judi had raised and released. It was a watershed. Judi wasn't just someone who raised someone else's caterpillars. Her butterflies are making their own butterflies. And Judi got a picture of that first full cycle Black Swallowtail, before she released it to take its place in the Circle of Life. Here it is (credit Judi for the picture):

First Full Cycle



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