Lemon tree life

On one common lemon tree in my yard — and I have raised many, never wanting to be short of lemons — I have discovered  a busy metropolis of green creatures.

This bejewelled and banded, spotted and spiked emerald caterpillar is one of about a similar six that I could easily see — the inquisitive bristling head of another is just visible to the lower left of the beauty on full display.

Plenty of evidence of leaf munching, and plenty more leaves to munch. Other caterpillars looked less relaxed, and a couple were arching, perhaps getting ready to change from the butterfly larva it really is, to the next stage, the pupa.

A few years ago I had photographed a similar knobbly green pupa or cocoon on another ‘proper’ lemon tree in my orchard and my web visitors had identified it for me as that of the Orchard Butterfly.  But I never saw it hatch, or the Butterfly.

You can see the fine ‘silk’ attaching it to the stem — and what great camouflage!

Coincidentally, while circling this tree looking for more butterfly life cycle evidence, I found my tiny New Year frog again. This lemon is right next to the hydrangea where I saw him then, so it could be the same Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog.

And then, on the same damp day, but on a different and very non-citrus tree, I was lucky enough to spot the Orchard Butterfly herself — big and boldly patterned and very still, perhaps drying those gorgeous wings.

It’s interesting that all the three stages of the life cycle are present at once. Is this usual?

5 thoughts on “Lemon tree life”

  1. Great step-by-step photos Gillian, thank you!
    And Cathy, what a beautiful image and memory; I’ll think if it when I see them too.

  2. I had a wonderful experience at my father’s funeral recently with one of these butterflies. It entered the church at the start of the service, circled my family in the front row for a few minutes, then proceeded to fly past the legs of every person in the chapel. At the end of the service it flew up and landed on my father’s casket then led the congregation out of the chapel. It was amazing. Ever since I’ve seen many of these butterflies and each time I see one I think of my father. How lucky are you that you have them breeding in your yard 🙂

  3. Wow Carol, I’d be excited too; it sounds like your granddaughter is a lucky girl to have a grandma who can show her such things – and who has such a lively lemon tree!

  4. I was going to blog about this today but maybe it will have to wait until tomorrow now. We are very excited (that’s me and my 4 1/2 yr old grand daughter) because in the last three days we have seen a pair of Orchard Swallowtails mating, an egg being laid on a leaf, microscopic babies just hatched, about 5 different stages of instars from the tiny brown and white caterpillars looking like bird droppings to the big fat green fellows about to pupate. Then on the same lemon tree are two pupas so we are waiting about 3 weeks (I think) for butterflies to emerge. For a little girl who loves insects, this is a wonderful lesson in a life cycle.

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