Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This specimen is the largest, best preserved butterfly I have managed to pin - they are difficult to preserve well because at each step along the way, catching-killing-pinning, there are endless ways to lose scales. Papilionidae is a family containing the subfamilies Parnassiinae and Papilioninae. Papilioninae is characterized by having one or more tail-like prolongations on the rear side of the hind wing (hence the name - swallow tails). Also, the radius in the fore wing is five branched. They tend to be black and yellow, some with striped patterns (zebra swallowtails) and some have red and blue markings as well. This subfamily is generally regarded as being one of the largest and most beautifully colored North American butterflies. The males and females tend to have different colorations, and this subfamily contains the largest butterflies in the world (the giant birdwings of Asia and Australia may reach wingspreads of 255 mm).

Lepidoptera; Papilionoidea; Papilionidae; Papilioninae; Papilio cresphontes
Common Name: Giant Swallowtail, Orangedog

The larvae are smooth-bodied, often have eye spots, and have an eversible scent gland or osmeterium - when the larva is disturbed, it emits a disagreeable odor. The larva forms a chrysalis, and it overwinters in that form, emerging as an adult in the spring. The above species, Papilio cresphontes, is a large, dark-colored butterfly whose larvae feed on citrus in the South and on prickly ash in the North. This specimen was found in San Diego, and is a female - the males have bolder reds and blues on the underside of the hind wings, with a black border. You can see from my hand that the butterfly is pretty large - roughly 4 inches across from wingtip to wingtip.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Spider!

I guess posting that Persephone was gone gave me good luck in finding a new spider - I came across a little crab spider in my backyard - it looks kinda like a Northern Crab Spider (Misumenops asperatus) but that's just a cursory field guide estimate. It is still the same family, Thomisidae, and it has pinkish colorations on a white background. It's a bit smaller than the other one, but it might be a very young crab spider, so hopefully I will be able to see it change as it grows. Anyway, here are the pictures - the name is Rosie. I don't know if it is male or female - it seems the biggest determinant is size, with females being larger, so if it grows a bit more that should suggest it is a female.

I'll post some pictures of her feeding eventually - just letting her get used to her new habitat for now. Her first meal of the day was a little fly, once she's done I have another one ready for her.

*Edit - and here they are!

RIP Persephone...

Well, I have been avoiding admitting the obvious for a bit now, but it looks like Persephone is no more.

Not a day or two after my last post about her, when she was so happy and getting colorful, I went to San Diego for the weekend. Sometime while I was away, my cat got up on my bookshelf where Persephone was, knocked over the jar, and either Persephone escaped to some nether region of the house or was ... well, eaten. I had been hoping she would reappear, but it appears that she is long gone.

In the meantime, I am keeping my eye out for another crab spider, or possibly a green lynx spider - they're easier to manage since they don't spin webs. So if I need to clean out the jar then it's easier. At any rate, hopefully I'll find a new spider pet soon.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Persephone - a little over a month

I have had Persephone for a little over a month now - she is still thriving. She's quite feisty too - she managed to survive a cat knocking the jar over - luckily she took cover under a nearby shoe so I was able to find her rather quickly. Her favorite food is still honeybees, but since it's been so rainy and cold lately, the bees hadn't been out and I had to catch her the occasional fly, which she would drain in about 10 minutes. The other day the bees were back so I caught her one and, once again, she worked on it for a few hours. I even saw her rotating it around to try to get every last drop out. She has also developed some maroon side spots, and her front half seems to have a more greenish hue to it - hopefully she will continue to become more colorful!

During the bee-less month

After feeding