Photo: Land Trust.

A Surprise Wildlife Visitor

Nov 20, 2023 by Jana Hemphill
Imagine Bend resident Donna Farquhar's surprise when she went into her kitchen one day this past summer!

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It was a typical late summer day for Bend resident Donna Farquhar. A few days before, she picked up groceries and visited her friend’s garden. The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Donna went into her apartment’s kitchen to prepare a meal, and that’s when she spotted them. Caterpillars! The Italian parsley she’d set out on the counter in a glass of water had crawling caterpillars!

“It was on the parsley, I couldn’t believe it,” said Donna. “That’s when I called the Land Trust.”

Now calling the Land Trust might not be the typical response of most people, particularly the more squeamish. Donna, however, had been a master gardener when she lived in eastern Oregon. She immediately recognized the importance of these tiny creatures. Grabbing a general book about butterflies from her bookshelf, Donna identified the caterpillars potentially as anise swallowtails. That’s when she decided to call the Land Trust.

Stewardship director Amanda Egertson, the Land Trust’s butterfly whisperer in residence, got the call and swung into action. After responsibly rearing monarch butterflies in the past, Amanda had all the equipment to help these caterpillars. She arrived at Donna’s apartment with a butterfly flight cage, chatted with Donna, and provided some recommendations.

Photo: Land Trust.
Photo: Land Trust.
Donna set the enclosure out on her balcony and added some sticks so the caterpillars would have somewhere to hang as a chrysalis. She put fresh parsley into the caterpillar’s enclosure every day for them to eat. She cleaned up after them (they are surprisingly messy!). After about 10 days, the caterpillars just stopped eating. It was time for their metamorphosis. “All of a sudden, they looked like a dead leaf,” said Donna. Amanda returned to confirm everything was all right. Since Donna’s balcony is windy, Amanda took the one remaining chrysalis to her house. There, it’s currently being protected from predation and harsh elements like heavy rain and snow. It’s also exposed to natural ambient temperatures.

Now the anise swallowtail chrysalis waits. It waits for winter to arrive and pass by. It waits for the first buds on the trees to emerge. Then in late spring or early summer, it will (hopefully) emerge as a beautiful butterfly. It will pollinate columbine, lupine, penstemon, and other flowers. If it’s a female, it will lay its eggs on parsley, dill, and the tops of carrots. And the cycle will begin anew.

“Butterflies are creatures that are so fragile, and they have to struggle so much,” said Donna. “If they didn’t struggle, though, they would just be an insect on the ground. They wouldn’t be able to blossom and become butterflies and fly away. They are remarkable.”

We look forward to the coming year when we can see if the anise swallowtail chrysalis continues its beautiful struggle towards becoming a butterfly. We’ll keep you posted!


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