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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Brian's Soldier butterflies

Recently Brian visited the Lower Rio Grande Valley where he found a few places that allowed him to collect some butterfly eggs. Quite a few people like to raise and release butterflies into the wild. It gives them a better chance than if the eggs are left to the whims of nature and predators. A small number of people collect butterfly specimens, which is the main source of our valuable knowledge about them. Someday Brian's collection will end up in a museum, but meanwhile he's an irreplaceable fount of knowledge. Everything I know about butterflies, I learned from him.

Soldier butterflies, sometimes called Tropical Queens, were a new species for Brian. They're kind of a cross between Monarchs and Queens, all of which host on milkweed. However Soldiers are very picky about their host plant. They don't eat true milkweed and will die from it. Brian was really stressed when he was unable to get them their proper host, Honeyvine Milkweed (Cynanchum laeve). Luckily, he got them to eat Fringed Twinevine (Sarcostemma cynanchoides), but the resulting butterflies that emerged yesterday were slightly in the small range for their species. Nevertheless, they look perfect and he's happy with them.

Male Soldier

Female Soldier

I have never seen a Soldier. In Texas they just occur in the Lower Rio Grande Valley where their host milkweed exists. Here are a few of the Soldiers as larva.

And here is one of his Soldier pupa (top) next to a Monarch pupa.

He's still waiting anxiously for his precious Ornythion Swallowtail to emerge from its pupa (lower). Soon, maybe tomorrow. Here it is beside a Western Giant Swallowtail pupa (upper). 

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