The first thing to determine of course is the species you wish to raise and to ensure that you have their preferred plant either in your garden or close at hand.
We have usually raised three species (and I must add that Miriam pretty much does this without a whole lot of help from me), Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) and Monarch (Danaus plexippus).
The swallowtails are known to seek out Rue (Ruta graveolens) to lay their eggs, so we have it growing in our backyard. At the appropriate time just keep an eye on the plant and you will not fail to notice the females depositing eggs. For Monarchs, a species of milkweed (Asclepias spp.) is necessary and we have Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), both containing a poisonous, bitter-tasting chemical which remains in the tissue of the adult butterflies and gives Monarchs immunity from predators. Dill (Anethum graveolens) is also accepted by swallowtails but milkweeds are essential for Monarchs.
Bring stems of the plant indoors with lots of leaves for the caterpillars to munch on when they hatch, keeping them green and fresh by standing them in water, and then watch the process unfold. When the caterpillars first emerge from the eggs you will be astounded at how tiny they are, yet you will be even more amazed at their rate of growth and the sheer volume of frass that accumulates at the bottom of the cage. You can't believe how much poop one little caterpillar can produce! We line the bottom of the cage with newspaper and change it regularly, and provide new food constantly.
If you are fortunate and are able to catch the moment when the caterpillar forms a chrysalis, or the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, you will be moved by the experience in a way that little else in life has moved you. It all takes place very quickly, however, so you have to keep checking!
When the butterfly emerges from the cocoon it hangs for a while inflating its wings and letting them dry; after which it is good to go on its journey as an adult butterfly.
We are finished with swallowtails for this year but have several Monarch caterpillars at various stages of development in the house now, so we have much pleasure and excitement to look forward to.
Other Odds and Ends
After four months of not getting together our Tuesday Rambles with David resumed, and we were careful to practice socially-distanced birding.
From left to right above - John Pries, Carol Gorenc, Jim Huffman, Judy Wyatt, David Gascoigne, Franc Gorenc, Mary Voisin.
Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) appear to have had a very successful breeding season and we have seen several newly-fledged families of these delightful flycatchers.
The local creeks, swamps and wetlands harbour good populations of Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) which can often be seen sunning themselves on a convenient log.
The young Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) at RiverSong have now left the nest and this lone adult was perhaps more than a tad relieved to be free of parental duties.
We have had a decent amount of rain of late, much needed and very welcomed by various species that gather in low spots in fields flooded by rainfall. This Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) was taking full advantage of the conditions.
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) is quite common around the shoreline of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, but it was unusual to find one just taking a rest.
We continue to get out every day and we are almost giddy with the full flush of nature at this time of the year. Life like this really is the way life was intended to be.