The great escape
    This caterpillar of Papilio machaon was seen near Besançon (Doubs - France) on the 25th of August, 2009.
The natural habitat was here a damp meadow where were growing Sanguisorba major, Succisa pratensis. The larva was found on a flower head of Silaum silaus (Apiaceae) which was probably used as a foodplant in that case.
The larva was picked up (just before the meadow was mown) and reared outdoor in a special cage suitable for insects....

 After several days spent in its new home, the larva started to pupate on the 29th of August. The weather was fine with hot temperatures (29-30°C). The whole process lasted 48 hours and lead to the pupa shown here...

From this moment began a long period of apparent sleep for the insect.

The insect cage was left outside during the following cold season ; an overwintering fleece (made for protecting plants in the garden) was used to wrap the cage, in order to protect the pupa from frost. It really had to bear tough climatic conditions (see graphs below)...

The pupa showed no external change until the end of May, 2010 when...


...the pupa quickly underwent a final change (on the 23rd of May) after a 9-month period of inactivity . Its tegument became transparent and the butterfly's wings were visible through it. The very best was yet to occur...
 Time of shot : 07:43 a.m.


Time of shot : 07:43 a.m.


On the 24th of May, the D-day had come. The pupa had been set up on purpose under the rays of sun since 07:30 a.m. The air temperature was warm already and was likely to trigger the emergence of the Swallowtail. Considering that the event was about to occur  I had set up my camera on its tripod in front of the pupa, waiting for the moment to come.... without staying close to the pupa and keeping an eye on it the moment would definitely have been missed;
The emergence process started at 07:43 a.m. and was perhaps one of the most breathtaking things I had ever seen. The pupa suddenly gave the impression to inflate then  the butterfly immediately  tore the envelop on its upper part. The Swallowtail popped up and rushed out of its envelop, climbing on the nearest support...
The following pictures show the rapid changes undergone by the insect while unfolding its spontaneously took off at 08:55 a.m. and flew away. Good luck to you, Swallowtail !
 Time of shot : 07:44 a.m.
 Time of shot : 07:46 a.m.
 Time of shot : 07:47 a.m.
 Time of shot : 07:48 a.m.
 Time of shot : 07:49 a.m.
 Time of shot : 07:52 a.m.
 Time of shot : 07:55 a.m.
 Time of shot : 07:58 a.m.
 Time of shot : 08:02 a.m.
 Time of shot : 08:04 a.m.
 Time of shot : 08:04 a.m.
 Time of shot : 08:13 a.m.
 Time of shot : 08:50 a.m.
Weather changes during the nymphal stage