The Circle Closes
It's a girl! Actually, it's two girls, so far. The Swamp Metalmark project continues to push ever further into uncharted territory. I recently posted the first photos we've ever gotten of the chrysalis of this species. Last week, adult butterflies began emerging. Progress was slow at first, just as pupations were. Things have picked up rapidly this week. We're now up to ten adults. Yesterday the first two females emerged.
Way back last summer, we collected gravid females up in Wisconsin. I have seen a lot of courtship activity in the flight cage, but no actual mating. It is not unusual for us not to observe any mating at all, even when it happens. I'm pretty sure that the female have now mated. We won't know for sure until we get fertile eggs out of them. Still, if my hunch is correct, it means that for the first time ever, we have succeeded in getting the metalmarks to complete a full life cycle in the lab, returning to the stage that we collected in the wild.
There's still lots of work to be done. We hope to get lots and lots of eggs out of these girls, and will rear the larvae in the lab. In about a month, we'll set them outside to overwinter in special cages. I will blog all the gory details.
Side Note: It's not unusual in butterflies to have the males emerge from their chrysalides sooner than the females do. We had eight males emerge before we got a single female. I expect that the last of the adults to emerge in this generation will be similarly skewed towards females. We have a dozen pupae yet to emerge, and more larvae on the way.