We had been seeing good numbers of Milbert's Tortoiseshells at Dunback - on July 16 I had counted 10, in every stage from completely worn to extremely fresh. On the 19th, Renee and I found this clump of caterpillars. Renee remembered reading that Milbert's lay their eggs in clumps, and we wondered if perhaps .....
I poked around on the web, and they seemed like a perfect match for what I could find. I collected a couple to watch.
On the evening of July 22, they were hanging from a nettle stem in little "Js," and the next morning they were chrysalises (the nettle was probably too wilted to use as a wrapping. I cut them from the stem, and put them into separate glass jars. On the 26th I noticed that the chrysalis on top had a small, dark brown, sausage-shaped thing in with it - about 1/4" long. The chrysalis looked darker, and started to shrivel up over the next couple of days.
When I got home on July 28, I discovered that one of the butterflies had hatched.
At the side of the paper towel in the jar was this reddish stuff and the chrysalis casing.
And the butterfly was determined to get out.
Renee and I went to Dunback Meadow (we figured we might as well release it where we found it)
Outside, in the sun, it became very agitated.
We took it into the shade, and pulled out the paper towel, and it took off, circling around, and finally...
back to perch.
As we left, it was backlit by the sun in profile.
On July 29, my second Milbert's eclosed, and I went to Dunback to release it.
As I was walking around, I saw this Milbert's and realized it was ovipositing.
When she finally finished, the egg mass was impressive. I took a knife and carefully extracted a small portion of the egg mass. I took home some nettle, and, lacking any other brilliant ideas, attached the eggs to a fresh nettle leaf with saliva.
On August 4 a close examination of the eggs appeared as if one of the eggs had opened (at roughly 9 o'clock). I couldn't find any caterpillar however.
On August 5, note that the egg at 6 o'clock has turned transparent. Heaven knows what is going on at 6 o'clock - a caterpillar?
Although I kept the nettle and eggs for weeks afterwards, I was never able to discover a caterpillar. A disappointment, but exciting while it lasted.