Something You've Never Seen Before
Folks who have been reading my blog for a while know of my struggles with trying to rear an endangered species of butterfly called the swamp metalmark. Last year, our lab managed to keep caterpillars alive all winter long. For some reason, they just never wanted to complete their life cycle and died before pupating. To date, I have only succeeded in bringing one male all the way from egg to adult. All but two of my larvae have died prior to pupation.
This year, I decided not to try to fight nature. We collected gravid females in July. We would rear them up until the end of the growing season, then place them outside to overwinter. The day length and cold temperatures would allow their biological clocks to do whatever they needed to, and we'd complete the life cycle next year.
This swamp metalmark caterpillar will pupate in the next day or two.
About a week and a half ago, Vincent informed me that some of the caterpillars were putting on a significant growth spurt. A couple even pupated. As of today, we have a dozen pupae, and the majority of the individuals in the lab will pupate in the next day or two. I have been unable to locate a photo of a pupa of this species. Here is one that I took this morning:
We will do what we can to try to get them to mate in the lab. If they do this, we already know that we can get them to lay eggs in the lab. We will rear them up to their normal stage for diapause (hibernation) and then place them outside. I have no idea what is going to happen here. A lot can still go wrong. The best possible outcome is that we get a significantly expanded number of eggs and larvae to work with. One thing is for sure- I've just about given up trying to anticipate how the species is going to behave.