Reinventing a childhood hobby

Midsummer 2013, after calling it a day at work I decided to have a walk in the nearby park. My wife, being pregnant in the 3rd trimester with our twin boys, was visiting friends downtown. She had our daughter with her, so I took a walk on my own.

Before I stepped out I took a moment to browse the web. I incidentally had a quick look-up to see when the caterpillars of the Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) could be found in Finland. The time was matching, I decided to give it a try.

I already gave it a shot early summer, trying to raise caterpillars of the Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae). Unfortunately, all 3 caterpillars had parasites. Instead of butterflies, it was parasitoid wasps hatching from the pupa.

I started at the beach line of the sea close by. I kept my eyes focused on milk parsley (Peucedanum palustre) which was growing aside the trail I walked. No success. The caterpillar of the Old World Swallowtail stands out quite well due to it’s colors and size. Hence, looking at the right spot the chances are pretty good to find the needle in the haystack.

Perhaps I’m too close to the windy sea, I thought, and decided to try another biotope. Walking about a kilometer I was close to a horse stable, a good environment for small wild life. Again, my eyes started browsing through milk parsley.

And then, there it was! Right on the edge of the field, feeding on the white blossom of milk parsley, I found one. The rush caused by finding a caterpillar after truly looking – priceless. And yes, right then I knew. It was about time to reinvent a childhood hobby, butterflies.

Did you know…

The colorful appearance of the adult caterpillar acts as warning to bird predators. By absorbing toxins from host plants, the caterpillar of the Old World Swallowtail tastes poorly if attempted to be eaten.

Source: Wikipedia (January 9, 2014)

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