Our orchard and vegetable garden is host to one of the most beautiful and graceful butterflies in the world. Each year in spring and summer huge Orchard Swallowtail (Papilio aegeus) butterflies drift lazily through the garden, their seemingly random flight describing arcs and dips impossible to predict. When I see the eggs on the citrus leaves I am already excited, filled with anticipation.
The lava is coloured to resemble a bird dropping, and feeds patiently on the leaves as it grows. Can you see how well disguised they are?
When it is about 60mm long it begins to pupate, fixing itself to a suitable stem with a fine silk cord. After a suitable period of time, from one to six months depending on the season, the adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis.
This adult is a female, marked with blue, red and orange chains of coloured crescents on the hindwing. She has a wingspan of 140mm. I found her resting on a young mandarin tree this morning, perhaps preparing to lay her single egg there, before moving to another tree to lay another egg.
I could not imagine any more perfect post for the first day of the New Year; as we live our lives of constant change let us contemplate the life of this exquisite butterfly!