There I go again, stalking pupating caterpillars. Well, one possible case of pupation, which I happened to come across yesterday when I went to the shed to fetch the cooler for my trip into town.
It was a clear and sunny but very windy day. I had some business to take care of in Kerrville, so I decided to start my 80 min. drive a little earlier than necessary and stop on the way for some wildflower shots. Turned out, it was too windy to get nice, clear close-ups, but it was invigoratingly beautiful to watch the forces of the storm turn the cloaks of colorful flowers into undulating ocean waves.
The earlier wildflower crop of Verbena, Phlox, and Bluebonnets is gradually being supplanted by new, lush carpets of Winecups, Primroses, Indian blankets, Daisies, some Black-eyed Susans, Daisies and more Daisies, not to mention the six to eight other species, I don’t recognize. Oh, and Texas Sage, which is not really sage, is starting to sway in the breezes all over the pastures to the right and left of the highways. I’ll have to tell you the story about the sage and the zebras soon. Have you ever noticed, how specific wildflowers only grow in clearly defined areas within their growing region? For example, there’s not a single Indian paintbrush in a 35-mile radius around the ranch. But they’re thick on the ground between Fredericksburg and Stonewall. Original distribution of seeds after the Highway Beautification Act, maybe? I don’t know.
The stretch of highway, where I took these pictures, is undergoing major road construction. Since they started work a few weeks ago, they’ve removed the entire road surface to the bare dirt beneath, so we have to find an alternate route to and from the ranch yet again. As you can see in the rear-view mirror, there’s plenty of empty road around here! Let’s see, where we wind up!
But, didn’t I start to tell you about caterpillars? Sorry about the flowery detour. Let’s go back to the caterpillar, I found attached to the narrow width of a cement board, which clads our shed. And the chrysalis that developed overnight out of this buckeye caterpillar. At least, I believe all those dozens and dozens of small, spiky and shiny black caterpillars racing around here lately, are larvae of the buckeye butterfly, Junonia cuenia, Nymphalidae (Hübner, 1822). As always, when I give a name to a critter, it comes with a large lettered CAVEAT attached. Believe my identification at your own peril! I’ve been wrong many times – as you know if you’ve read here in the past.
This is how I first saw the little fellow, who is barely 2 cm or 0.8″ long. Not only is this location unbelievably exposed to predation, the poor thing was whipped around by the fierce winds. I was so sure it would be either devoured or dislodged in short order, I didn’t even recheck after I got home toward evening.
When I did go back the next day, a chrysalis had developed. Which, today, is still bravely sticking to and sticking out from the very light background in the bright Texas sun.
I just googled ‘pupa’ and the following quote made me laugh:
“Pupae are usually immobile and are largely defenseless.
To overcome this, a common feature is concealed placement.”
Yep, this caterpillar sure understood the importance of that concealment thingy! So much for common features. I’ll keep you posted, while you must keep your fingers crossed for yet another misguided creature.