It seems somehow fitting that I released Flutterby on Easter Sunday. I had a hard time deciding if I should let her go. Although the day was warm and sunny, I knew the temperature would drop and it was still a bit early to release her. But, I had her for about 15 days, and although I couldn’t get a definitive lifespan for an emerged black swallowtail butterfly, it seemed she should live anywhere from two weeks to a month and it was 15 days since she emerged. If there are any butterfly experts feel free to leave a comment! She couldn’t fly very well indoors and seemed to be fading fast, so I decided it would be better to give her freedom for a day or two than to dwindle indoors without ever feeling the sun or having a breeze to float on. I was prepared to take her back in if she was unable to fly at all.
However, after basking in real sunlight for about 15 minutes, she took off as if nothing were ever wrong with her wings. I turned my back for 5 minutes to take a quick look at my “dying” beehive and she was gone. I searched the yard high and low and she was nowhere to be found. This is how I learned that butterflies are “solar powered”. The full-spectrum bulb may have kept her warm, but apparently she needed real sun and a light breeze to really take off.
Also, I discovered that my dying bees didn’t. Yet again, this beehive died down to almost nothing, literally 2 frames of sick wet bees with dysentery. I figured the weakened bees didn’t have enough workers to recover, but I was wrong! Sometimes being wrong is a great thing! The remaining bees, given a dry hive and plenty of clean honey stores, appear to be making a comeback. Although I didn’t open the hive up for long, it is obvious there IS a queen in there. Otherwise, the population wouldn’t have noticeably increased. I intervened in the nick of time it seems, but these are some tough bees. If you are looking to purchase your first package, I highly recommend getting the North Central Carnolian Queens from Apple Blossom Honey Farm, since that is what I started with. This current queen is now a mix of the original Carnolian queen, Italians, local feral bees and possibly some Russian bees. My brother had Russians at one point and we’re still trying to figure out if he had them long enough for those genes to be in the mix. In any case, I am now calling these bees “Chicago Mutts”.