Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Invite the Butterflies.

Earlier today, I was able to release another butterfly—it, sort of, flew right away after I took it out of the container.  I've kept it as a cocoon in a container for a week. It was a male Common Mormon (Papilio polytes)—I’ve been reading my lessons so I was able to tell that it was a male—I also compared it to the images online. 

Where did I get the cocoon? The one I released earlier, I got it from my father’s potted lemon tree. I get most of the cocoons from our yard. Some of them are taken from our neighbors’ plants, as a caterpillar or as a cocoon. My neighbors are lucky to have me; I rid them of their abomination. 

Three instars of a caterpillar
After collecting the cocoons, I keep them in plastic containers and release them after the butterflies have emerged from their chrysalis. I store the cocoons because I fear that the neighbor’s stray chickens would peck at them. The caterpillars are also at risk of getting pecked at and eaten but they can defend themselves—the pupae are generally defenseless.

Butterflies are fascinating. Caterpillars, though not as attractive as their adult selves, are also fascinating.  If you want butterflies in your area and you want to observe them from egg to adulthood, you can invite them. Yes, you can. Investing on flowering plants would entice the insects to visit you but, if you want them to breed in your area, I highly recommend planting their host plants. If you want a Citrus Swallowtail to visit, you should keep a citrus tree. A certain species has a certain food plant—have another plant for another butterfly species. Well, there are also other species with common hosts. 

I have observed several butterfly species in our area—six species are common visitors. If you want them in your area, I have listed their food plants—most of them I’ve discovered by luck. The rest I learned from the books and from my visit to the Jumalon Museum, Butterfly Sanctuary, and Art Gallery

1. Common Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus)

(Photo by WP User: Muhammad Mahdi Karim)
The Common Lime’s wings, viewed above, are black with a broad irregular yellow band running from forewing to hindwing. It also has a large number of irregular spots on the wing. As it ages, the yellow markings would deepen in to orange.  Its upper hindwing has a red tornal spot with blue edging around it.

This tailless swallowtail butterfly got its name from its host plant. Its food plants are from the Rutaceae and Fabaceae families. I have observed them lay their eggs in the lemonsito, pomelo and lemon trees in our area.  

2. Citrus Swallowtail (Papilio demodocus) 

(Photo by WP User: Muhammad Mahdi Karim) 
The Citrus Swallowtail is morphologically related to the Common Lime Butterfly. I myself get confused about the two species.  Looking at the hindwings, from the below, the Common Lime has more yellow while the Citrus Swallowtail has more black. 

The Citrus Swallowtail feeds on—of course—citrus tree leaves.  

3. Mottled Emigrant (Catopsilia pyranthe)

(Photo by WP User: J.M. Garg) 
The Mottled Emigrant is a medium sized butterfly of the family Pieridae.  It is found in South Asia, Southeast Asia and parts of Australia. It has chalky-white wings while other representatives have greenish or yellowish coloring. Its forewing is with or without a discocellular black spot, which varies in size. The hindwing is sometimes clear, but generally with a narrow terminal black spot at the apices of the veins.

The Mottled Emigrant feeds on legumes of the Cassia, Senna and Crotalaria genera. I've seen its caterpillars in our ill-tempered neighbor's dwarfed golden shower tree.

4. Common Mormon (Papilio polytes)

(Photo by Wikipedia/Rahul Natu)
The Common Mormon butterfly is a butterfly with a row of white spots along the middle part of hindwing. This species displays sexual dimorphism. The male has one form and the female has three forms. The form cyrus, the lease common of the three forms, is similar to the male, differing in that it always has strongly marked red crescents. The other two forms are stichius, which mimics the Atrophaneura aristolochiae, and cyrus, which mimics the Atrophaneura hector

The Common Mormons also feed on citrus trees. 

5. Tailed Jay (Graphium agamemnon)

The Tailed Jay is a common, tropical swallowtail butterfly species native to India, Sri Lanka through Southeast Asia and into Australia. The butterfly’s upper side wings are black with green spots.  

The Tailed Jay’s host plants are from the family Annonaceae. I recommend planting guyabano and atis/sugar-apple trees. You can also plant Indian mast trees—a tall tree, commonly found planted in the middle of the traffic islands of Mandaue

6. Common Jay (Graphium doson)

(Photo by WP User: J.M. Garg)
The Common Jay is a fast-flying swallowtail butterfly. On the upper side, it has black wings with pale blue semi-transparent central wing band that are formed by large spots. Around the wing band are smaller spots. The underside of the wings is brown with markings similar to upper side but whitish in color.

The Common Jay has similar food plants as the Tailed Jay. It also feeds on the plants of the Lauraceae and Magnoliaceae families. 

Before you run and go on planting the food plants, take note: butterflies are beautiful to look at but some of them are considered invasive speciesMost people are abhorred of the squirmy caterpillar, especially the hairy onesTheir larvae are also considered pests. There is a high risk that the caterpillars will attack your other plants, especially those which are closely related to their food plants. Lastly, you do not want them around your crops. 

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