What i didn't anticipate was that it would overwinter in it's chrysalis.
All winter we have had this stick propped up inside a vase sitting on top of our bookshelf. i hadn't totally forgotten about it, but really wasn't expecting it to emerge for quite a while so i haven't been checking on it regularly.
So you can imagine my surprise when i went to feed our frogs and saw a newly emerged butterfly hanging upside down drying off her wings.
i transferred her to our butterfly garden to protect her from my cats who had spotted her and were waiting for their chance to pounce. This is a female. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails come in two forms, light and dark or yellow and black. The Yellow Tiger swallowtails can be either male or female, however the dark (black) form is always female.
We gave her a bit of sugar water to eat, and then pondered what to do with her. i suppose she emerged early because the woodstove keeps our house so warm. We have also had a couple of really nice days in the high 60's low 70's. The impostor lady bugs and wasps have begun to appear inside, so it really should not have been a surprise that our butterfly would chose to emerge as well.
We really were not sure what to do with her. We could keep her in captivity, and feed her sugar water and rotting fruit. Swallowtails only have a lifespan of about 2 weeks. Although our temps have been nice, it is supposed to get cold again. Butterflies are cold blooded and need day time temperatures of 55-60 degrees to fly.
All morning our butterfly sat at the top of the enclosure, frantically beating her wings trying to escape. i decided that a life in captivity is not a life at all for a butterfly, so we decided to release her knowing that if the temperatures drop too low she will die. We chose to trust in nature. Butterflies have very strong instincts. She wants to fly to find a mate and lay her eggs. Who are we to stop her?
So yesterday our temps were over 70 degrees, and we took her outside. i just barely had a second to snap this picture before she flew. She flew straight up as fast and as far as she could, as if she knew exactly where she was going. i think she did.
"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower." ~Hans Christian Anderson