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Monday, September 04, 2006

Not seen and seen

I went out late on Saturday night and I looked at the gibbous moon to perhaps see or imagine I had seen the plume of dust rising from the lunar surface as the SMART 1 lunar craft crashed into it. No luck; I looked until my feeble eyes watered, but did not see anything but the mountains on the moon.

Next morning I got out quite early to do a little gardening before the heat of the day: throw some fertilizer around, water, trim a bit, clean up. Not in my looking-for-bugs-mindset at all (repeat after me: must get yard work done, MUST GET YARD WORK DONE), I suddenly saw this swallowtail butterfly settled on an rose bush. I believe this is a giant swallowtail,
Papilio cresphontes, although none of my guides lists that as a common species here. There have been quite a few of these large (maybe 4" wingspan) butterflies floating through the garden this
year, but they are hard to photograph because they rarely stop to nectar. If that is the species, the larvae feed on citrus and disguise themselves as bird droppings. I'm on the lookout for those, as that would confirm the giant swallowtails are breeding around here.

Maybe if I head out looking for, say, diaprepes root weevils, I'll end up flicking swallowtail larvae off my shirt thinking they're bird poop.


Anonymous said...

How beautiful they are!
I would like to have seen the results of the lunar crash too.

Peggy K said...

Fantastic photos! Have you/do you plan to post about what photographic equipment you use? I've tried to take some bug pictures of my own and they don't come out even close to as nice as yours!

Cindy said...

I saw one of those bird-poop caterpillars at the arboretum once, a long time ago.

(It was good to meet you today. Sorry I didn't have time to stay.)

Anonymous said...

This is a giant swallowtail, and there are many sightings in OC this year. In the last month, I've seen them at Fullerton Arboretum, Irvine Park and today at UCI Arboretum. Google "Peter Bryant" and "butterflies" to learn a bit more.

They are tough to photograph. I haven't been able to get a shot yet. BTW, rue is another host plant, but I don't know what that is.

vanessa cardui said...

Thanks for the confirmation. Rue is an herb with what I consider to be an offensive odor but interesting foliage and flowers. I have it growing in my garden and look now and then for swallowtail larvae that might be eating it. No luck so far.