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Common Mormon (failed metamorphosis)

Papilio polytes

Description:

This green caterpillar (first shot) is almost ready to pupate. In the second shot it is a pre-pupa. Pupa formed on 18 March 2021. I read this stage will last 8 days (if all goes well). Everything was progressing OK...the pupa became papery and I could see the white spots on the black wings inside. It split on time but the butterfly did not emerge. Today 28 March 2021, i see there are ants on it. R.I.P. my much-awaited butterfly.

Habitat:

A few years ago, I had brought home some Kinnoo fruit ( citrus hybrid like a rather flattened orange). My maid had never seen one and after eating it, she planted a seed in a neglected part of the garden near the boundary wall. She has green fingers. The seed is now a shrub with really long thorns (Good luck to thieves jumping over the wall!). I often find it festooned with papery, ghostly white butterfly cocoons with neat slits on the side...evidence of successful emergence of adults! I have seen Lime butterflies metamorphose on my boundary wall. Yesterday, a Common Mormon butterfly fell out (and into the drain...fished out covered with sludge...but that is another story altogether) as the cleaner brushed past the shrub. It was a jolt to realize that I had not looked for caterpillars here for almost all of 2020. After almost a year I looked closely...straight into the ' eyes' of a 5th instar caterpillar. Backyards are wonderful!. Later that day it had assumed a vertical position and then, next day it was like a sort of hook shape and the posterior segments were contracting...it was a pre-pupa.You can see the photos. I went to look for the pupa the next day and could not see it...I knew it "had" to be there...and kept searching...finally I saw it an inch from my nose looking just like a baby leaf...matching the green shade perfectly. Apparently had it pupated on the trunk of a tree it would have been brown! The lovely shade of green like a newly emerged leaf has lightened over these couple of days...as if the pretend-leaf is drying!

Notes:

I hope to keep an eye on its development and post photos. The caterpillars of Common Mormon and the Lime butterfly look very similar.

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2 Comments

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 8 months ago

Great spotting, Sukanya. Wonderful notes too! I look forward to your next post.

SukanyaDatta
SukanyaDatta 8 months ago

Pupation complete.

SukanyaDatta
Spotted by
SukanyaDatta

Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Spotted on Mar 16, 2021
Submitted on Mar 17, 2021

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