Friday, August 28, 2009
American Painted Lady Not So Lovely
A great friend brought to me a jar of caterpillars of the American Painted Lady butterfly. They are beautiful in their own way. I like the geometry of the yellow stripes and red spots. They see a wider range of patterns and color, especially ranges of green than humans do. This may account for the highly defined striping and spotting. They feed on glaucous leaved foliage, like this Pearly Everlasting. I once had Edelweiss in a garden because my grandmother loved it. She grew up in Munich, Germany. I found numerous of its dried flowers pressed into books in her house. Every year, my Edelweiss was consumed by these caterpillars and it eventually succumbed. The caterpillars spin a silk thread from the spinneret just below the mouth and hang from one end. The suspended caterpillar's skin eventually splits from end to end revealing the chrysalis. As a defense, the chrysalis shakes vigorously if disturbed. It's jiggling is unnerving when this otherwise inert object suddenly feels so alive. After two weeks, the butterfly that has formed inside emerges. The butterflies live about two weeks, then they lay eggs on the plants they have favored for food and the cycle contines again. The American Painted Lady is one of the most common butterflies in the United States and can be found in almost all of our states.