black swallowtail caterpillar

Yesterday, while out for my afternoon insect walk, I came across a Black Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) feeding on Queen Anne’s Lace flowers. This summer, we’ve seen more Black Swallowtail butterflies than in all previous years combined. Once again, I’m sure this must come down to excellent growing conditions for caterpillar food plants and perhaps ideal weather conditions for survival of the butterflies.

Unlike the Monarch caterpillars that look pretty much alike from hatching through to pupating, the Black Swallowtail cats differ greatly at each instar stage. The image below is of a third instar caterpillar photographed in my garden a couple of summers ago. The one above, would be a fifth and final instar.

Well, the weekend is almost here and we’ll probably be off canoeing or hiking as the weather is supposed to be excellent. I’m not sure if I’ll be around much over the next couple of days, but will post if I encounter anything of interest. However, speaking of good weather, I hope everyone has clear skies for the next couple of nights. As Wayne reminds us at Niches, the Perseids should be visible this weekend. Check out his post for more viewing tips.

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337 Responses to “black swallowtail caterpillar”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    That is a remarkable difference in their instar stages. I really don’t know anything about butterfly development (except what I have learned here!), so this question may seem ridiculous, but here goes: I am assuming that the instar stage is the form that emerges after a “molting” and that there are a series of stages that the caterpillar goes through before it is ready to pupate. Will each swallowtail look the same at each instar stage?

    I just thought I’d share this private note: I dreamed of caterpillars last night.

  2. burning silo Says:

    Robin – Regarding the instars, yes, any Swallowtails that I’ve seen look pretty much alike at each instar – but each instar stage differs from the others. The first time I found a third instar Black Swallowtail, I thought, “What is this?!” and couldn’t find any similar caterpillars in one of my guides. A couple of days later, I found the fourth instar of this caterpillar on the same plant in the garden. It looked similar but not quite the same. I suddenly realized that it must be the same caterpillar, but at a different stage of development. Some more looking around ont he net revealed that I had seen both the third and fourth instars of the Black Swallowtail. I kept watching, and before long, I saw the final instar that is commonly seen in field guide illustrations. That’s one of the “problems” when trying to ID caterpillars. Often, each instar is different enough from the final instar that we may not be able to find it in a field guide to do an ID. If we can keep the caterpillar around and feed it its preferred food, in a few days, we may find out that it’s a familiar species.
    By the way, I think that’s cool that you dreamed of caterpillars. Hope it was a nice dream!

  3. linda craiger Says:

    I need advise regarding Black Swallowtail caterpillars. As I was pulling up my spent Dill last Friday, I saw 6 small caterpillars that I identified a Black Swallowtail. Wanting to save them, I called all my friends to see if they had any parsley or dill that I could put the caterpillars on. Over the next few days, found that all the people I contacted had nothing. Today I was down to 2 caterpillars. Went to Wal-Mart & bought some fresh cut Dill. Have now put the caterpillars on the Dill in my garage, but so far, they don’t seem to be doing anything. Is this going to work?? What do I do now? Would appreciate any help/ advise. THANKS

  4. burning silo Says:

    linda – I think it may depend on how long it will be before the caterpillars pupate. If they have a long time to go, they may not do well. If they are at the final stage before pupating, you may find they will pupate in the next couple of days and you won’t have to worry about feeding them. Do you have Queen Anne’s Lace wildflowers in your area. They are quite widespread around North America. The caterpillar that I found was on Queen Anne’s Lace and that’s what I fed it for several days. It is now beginning to pupate. Just do a Google image search for that flower if you don’t know what it looks like. Maybe you have some growing in fields right around your place.

  5. linda craiger Says:

    THANKS. Actually, there is Queen Ann’s Lace close by, but I need to wait awhile to see if someone is going to mow it down again. If not, I will move the caterpillars to them. In the meantime, they appear to be eating the cut Dill (I have the stems in water). They are only about 1 inch long. How can you tell when they are ready to pupate? If I did try to keep them after pupating, will they winter over in my garage, or do they need to be outside? THANKS

  6. burning silo Says:

    Linda – If you can keep them supplied with Dill and they’ll eat it, then it sounds like you don’t have a problem. I think that caterpillar should really grow to a couple of inches in length before pupating. I just checked “The Butterflies of Canada” by Layberry, Hall & Lafontaine, and it looks like larvae that pupate in August would overwinter before emerging around mid-May (Main flights of this species occur in mid-May to late June, and then mid-July into August). I haven’t found much on rearing Black Swallowtail butterflies, but there is a little on this page down near the bottom. They have to be kept in a place that is about the same as the normal outdoor temperature – so an unheated garage would probably be okay if you’re somewhere in the north such as I am.

  7. linda craiger Says:

    Just giving you an update on the two Black Swallowtail caterpillars that I brought into my garage and put on Dill weed from the store. One just stopped eating, went into a vegative state, then appeared to petrify, without pupating. So, he was discarded. The second one became about 2 inches long in about 9 – 10 days, actually crawled out of the box and went several feet into the garage before I found him and put him back on the Dill. He never ate anymore; thought he was probably going to die. Then, over night, he dropped off the dill, and was fully pulpated the next morning, lying in the bottom of the box. I’m not sure if he got off the Dil and crawled around looking for a place to pulpate or not. Anyway, at this point, since he is not attached to anything, do you think I could attach him to a board with a straight pin? What part do you put the pin into??? THANKS

  8. burning silo Says:

    Linda – I’ve had that “petrified” state happen to 4 of the Monarch caterpillars out of about 50 or so. They actually started to look at bit moldy (kind of dark fuzz around the legs), so I quickly discarded them in case they infected the healthier ones). I suspect that the ones that can’t transform well may actually have parasites or some other problem. As for what to do about the chrysalis that is just sitting there unattached, you might be able to attach the pointed end (the one that comes to a single point and not the end with two prongs on it) to something. I’d probably be inclined to see if I could get it to “stick” to a little piece of screen rather than pinning it onto something, as I’d be a little worried about damaging some part of the developing butterfly. You might find that there’s a bit of silk on the outside of the chrysalis and that it will adhere to something textured (such as the screen).

  9. Terese Says:

    I just found this website and boy am I excited. We’ve have several Swallowtail caterpillars (who sadly didn’t make it) long after I got emotionally involved because my 3yr old and I think they are just so cute! They’ve eaten all of our parsley and dill (which is fine – it’s been fun watching them grow) BUT…one survived the growing season and eating fest, ate all the parsley and just in the last 24 hours of this posting, cocooned on the underside edge of the big pot our parsely is in.
    My question is WHAT do we do now to insure as best as possible his/her survival thru the winter? When should we move the pot into the unheated/uninsulated garage? We really want this little green sweetie to have a chance….
    Any tips would be greatly appreciated by my whole family.
    Do the cocoons ever get eaten by predators? Should we move it now? All other caterpillars seem to be ‘gone’ and no other cocoons on our plants…nothing left of the plants now either. It’s attached nicely to the under rim of the pot and has a little swing movement to it.

  10. burning silo Says:

    Terese – I would think the Swallowtail pupa would be fine just left where it is and perhaps moved into the unheated garage around the time of the first frosts. I don’t know if there are any particular predators to watch out for. In truth, the whole insect world is filled with predators, so I suppose anything could happen as yet. Also, sometimes certain flies and wasps lay eggs on caterpillars and those will hatch and parasitize the caterpillar even after it has made a cocoon or chrysalis. Unfortunately, there’s usually no way of knowing for sure until the butterfly or moth either emerges or doesn’t. Anyhow, sounds like things are going okay with your caterpillar, so I’d just hope for the best and with any luck, you’ll get to see a butterfly emerge in the spring.

  11. JEAN Says:

    My daughter and I have successfully raised multiple swallowtail butterflies from the parsley and carrot tops in our garden. This year we had up to 30 caterpillars at one time. We have released 15 or so that have matured into butterflies and have several crysalis(sic), but we have had a severe problem in the last few days. Due to the increased numbers I had to resort to purchasing parsley from the grocery store. I have lost all the caterpillars and I’m wondering if it is due to a pesticide on the food supply. I did rinse the parsley, but I did not soak it. I suppose it could have also been some kind of bacteria? I just don’t know. I’m still going to look only for organic vegetables in the future. And increase my garden vegetation.

    We have had many great experiences though and have been able to share the wonder with many friends.

  12. Misty Mawn Says:

    Thank you so much for your site. I found a Swallowtail caterpillar yesterday on some queen anne’s lace and I brought it in. It eats on and off, seems to perfer the dill over the lace, but it eats slowly, nothing like a monarch caterpillar. It looks to be healthy, but very calm. I hope this is normal. Do all swallowtails winterover? I read on one site that they could emerge before winter, but most sites say they winterover? Your site has been so helpful already, thanks!

  13. burning silo Says:

    Misty – According to The Butterflies of Canada, by Layberry, Hall & Lafontaine, there are supposed to be two flights of these butterflies per season. The first flight emerges from overwintering pupae in mid-to late May and fly until the end of June. The next brood emerges in mid-July and flies throughout August. The second brood would be the offspring of the first butterflies that overwintered as pupae. The caterpillars we are finding now would be the offspring of the summer brood of butterflies, so it’s likely that any we find now, would need to overwinter before emerging. In my area (eastern Ontario), the weather will soon be too cold for butterflies, so most caterpillars that we are seeing now won’t become moths or butterflies until next spring. If you live much further south, the natural history of your butterflies might be quite different.

  14. linda craiger Says:

    Sad ending to my Black Swallowtail caterpillar saga. I incidentially looked at the wire cage I had placed the pupa in a couple of weeks ago. Found the butterfly had emerged and, of course, could not get out, so had died. I live in Kentucky (USA), much futher south, so, guess they don’t winter over here. I plan to try again next year if I have any caterpillars on my dill, and based on this year’s experience, try to avoid the same mistakes. Thanks to Jean regarding buying things for them to eat…. I agree organic would be best.

  15. fran Says:

    What a great website! My students and I successfully raised a minute Black Swallowtail larva that came into our classroom on a bouquet of wildflowers (Queen Anne’s Lace) on the first day of school, many years ago. We learned that swallowtails which overwinter form brown pupae, rather than green ones–better camouflage. Our little guy (we named him Chowhound) formed a brown pupa, which looked very much like the stick he was attached to. We put him in a screened cage in the school courtyard, checked on him faithfully, and he emerged on the last day of school in June. It was a wonderful experience. But if you have a green pupa, don’t plan on it overwintering–keep checking on it frequently. Good luck!

  16. burning silo Says:

    linda – thanks for posting the follow-up to your caterpillar and chrysalis story. I’ve also thought about how you have to keep watch for moths or butterflies eclosing if you’re going to keep the chrysalis or cocoon in an enclosed space as it might go unnoticed for awhile.
    fran – Thanks for your comments and the tip about the colour of the chrysalis. I’ve only seen the late summer ones but will have to watch for an early season one.

  17. Kim Says:

    Help. I’m a complete novice and know little about caterpillars/butterflies except what I learned in Jr. High and High School Science. We are located in SE South Dakota (it’s starting to get down to the 40’s at night). Last week I found a load of, what I found from the internet to be Black Swallowtail Caterpillars on the Parsley in my herb garden. I do enjoy nature and animals, so brought a couple in the house in a container…I also took a couple to the classroom at school I work in, and my son too a couple to his classroom. One at school has gone into a chrysalis…but it is brown and somewhat fuzzy looking. One in my house has gone into a chrysalis…but it is a greenish color and you can see it moving around. From what I am reading, should I expect the brown one at school to need to overwinter and not come out til spring, but the one at home will emerge yet this fall? In my container at home, I still have a lg. caterpillar and a sm. caterpillar. What should I expect?
    Thanks for any advice! I’m hoping to see butterflies emerge – rather this fall or next spring…and also to see more caterpillars in the herbs next year!

  18. linda craiger Says:

    Hey Kim ….. good luck with your caterpillars! The caterpillar I had turned into a brown chrysalis, but still hatched within 2 weeks, so I’m not sure brown – vs – green always means they winter over or emerge quickly. My advise would be to check daily, or leave an opening so it can fly out. I would assume it needs something to obtain nectar from immediately and or to migrate almost as soon as it emerges. I wish you luck and a happy ending.

  19. Laiku Oh Says:

    Hello. We are currently raising 3 Black Swallowtails, and they have all ‘cocooned.’ However, due to the heating system, the oldest pupae has hatched without overwintering. To tell the truth, it’s flying around crazily, trying to get out of the large fish tank we have set up for it. How will we ensure that it will survive in the harsh winter? Set it free while there are still warm autumn days? I really need your assistance.

  20. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – I can imagine that it must be frustrating to have a Swallowtail emerge at this time of the year. You didn’t say what area you’re from, but I’m guessing that it must be somewhere in Canada or the northeast part of the U.S.
    Swallowtails normally emerge in two groups during the year — the first flight is in June from pupae that overwintered, and the second group emerges around late July or August from pupae that develop in summer. I don’t quite know what to tell you to do about the butterfly. If you’re in an area where it’s still warm and insects are flying, you could just let it go. It won’t mate or be able to lay eggs as there wouldn’t be others of its kind flying, but if there are flowers still in bloom, it could probably find enough food for survival. However, if you’re in an area like mine (eastern Ontario, Canada), there’s really nothing remaining for butterflies to feed on, and it’s very cold up here now, so the butterfly wouldn’t survive for long. I think the best you can do is to keep the butterfly indoors – and if you don’t mind having a butterfly flying loose in your house, you could release it indoors. If you’ve got flowering plants, it may be attracted to those. You can also try mixing up some nectar for it, the same as how we make sugar water to feed to hummingbirds. I checked the web and found a couple of references for how to feed butterflies. Here are the links. Hope that’s some help to you.

  21. Laiku Oh Says:

    Thank you. We do live in New York. I don’t think my dad will like the idea of letting the butterfly loose in the house. My older sister already suggested this, and he firmly said the powder would end up in our eyes. I don’t believe this, but I don’t think I can budge my parent. We did buy and collect some flowers(red clover and African violet) but I don’t see it drinking with its proboscis uncurled. It also does not drink the sugar water we gave it on cotton balls. I think the best choice is to set it free, since the weather says it will be warm this week. *sigh*

  22. Laiku Oh Says:

    By the way- One cocoon is brown and one is green. :)

  23. Laiku Oh Says:

    Also, we fed it a little. How many times should you feed it a day? My mom broke part of the wing by accident when she held it too firmly. Will it be okay? We’re in the decision of setting it free this week because it’s warm. But they don’t really migrate, do they? If we give it a week, will it survive, or will it stay in the same area?

  24. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – I’m not sure how many times to feed it a day, but I would think you could feed it 3 or 4 times a day and that would probably been enough. The butterfly wouldn’t be expending as much energy to feed as it would require to fly around looking for nectar in a bunch of different flowers. I wouldn’t worry about the broken part of a wing. I have photographed butterflies that have big pieces broken off of their wings — probably from attacks from birds — and they are still flying well. I don’t think it hurts the much (if at all) when a piece of a wing is broken away. In fact, I’ll post a photo of a Tiger Swallowtail that I photographed that had a big piece of wing missing and it could still fly well (see below).
    You’re correct about the Black Swallowtail not migrating. Unlike the Monarch, I think it would stay close to where it is released. I can’t say for sure what will happen to it, but I can tell you that butterflies and many other insects can tolerate cold and just become torpid when they are cold. One of the websites that I read for information about Monarchs said that, if you couldn’t release your Monarchs raised from cocoons immediately, you could store them in the refrigerator until you were ready to release them. It didn’t say for how long, but I’m assuming that a few days wouldn’t harm them. Just going by that, I would think that the Black Swallowtail butterflies can probably survive some cool weather — they will probably just find a sheltered place as the weather cools in the evening, and sleep until it warms up again. I think that, until it becomes very cold, it would survive and fly around during the day. I’m not sure how it would obtain food without flowers to visit, but I also think it could last awhile. After all, some of the large moths like the Luna moth can’t feed and they manage to stay alive for quite awhile. Someone on a listserv that I belong to had a Luna moth in their gazebo for about 4 or 5 weeks and it was still flying even though it could not feed. Anyhow, here is that photo of the Tiger Swallowtail with the damaged wings.

  25. Laiku Oh Says:

    My older sister says the place where it falls off the most is the eyespot-the place most attacked because predators are fooled by it.Thank you much for the abundant information, it has helped me a lot. The butterfly is okay, we might set it free soon in the Botanical Garden near the New York Hospital. Once again, thanks.

  26. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – It would be neat if you can release the butterfly into a garden or a greenhouse where there might be some flowers!

  27. Laiku Oh Says:

    We released it two weeks ago. We didn’t release it near the Botanical Garden, but in our neighborhood there are flowers. It should be able to survive. ;) Thanks!

  28. Laiku Oh Says:

    Oh my goodness! We found a wasp-looking thing in the fish tank today. I found out that the insect laid the egg in the caterpillar when it was still young before we kept it captive, and it hatched today or yesterday, even! It also ATE the caterpillar. How sad. Oh well, we still have our green cocoon. That means two caterpillars died(one died a longggg time ago). Still, isn’t it horrifying to find a visible hole in the chrysalis, with the chrysalis empty? I am apalled. :(

  29. Laiku Oh Says:

    At least the wasp-thingamajig didn’t get out.

  30. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – Well, that’s very interesting and I guess that explains why the one cocoon was green and the other was brown! Unfortunately parasitoids that lay eggs on caterpillars are quite common and very deadly. However, it seems as though you are getting a lot of experience at raising caterpillars and learning about the various factors that have an effect on their survival!

  31. Laiku Oh Says:

    Well, the brown/green concept is contreversial, since the other one that hatched was brown, and it survived. What do you mean by what you said about the cocoons?

  32. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – That’s interesting. We had green and brown Monarch cocoons and all of the brown (more like tan-coloured) ones turned out to be no good, while the green ones were almost always good and a butterfly emerged. So, the brown Swallowtail hatched okay, did it? What was the colour of the one that seemed to have a parasitic wasp emerge from it? It would be interesting to know such a thing.

  33. Laiku Oh Says:

    The parasitic wasp one was an intense wood brown. But the one above it, the one that hatched sucessfully, was almost the exact same color. So the brown/green contreversy is getting even more complicated. Great news, though. The last green one hatched! I just fed it, and it looks very pretty. Maybe a little smaller than the released one, though. It’s beautiful and elegant. I’m so happy! We have decided to keep this one and see what happens…

  34. Laiku Oh Says:

    We have actually decided to free the butterfly soon at a flowery place. We will keep it for a little more though…

  35. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – It seems that you’ve had very good results from the Swallowtails! It’s nice that there is somewhere that you can release the butterfly so that it will have some freedom to fly around. Thanks for posting the updates on the butterflies!

  36. Laiku Oh Says:

    No problem.

  37. Laiku Oh Says:

    Hello? I’m afraid the butterfly has lost a section of it’s left back leg. It will be okay, right? (I’m still raising the butterfly.)

  38. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – I don’t think it will bother the butterfly at all to have a piece of the leg missing. I quite often see insects with missing legs and I don’t think they really notice it.

  39. Laiku Oh Says:

    Thank you. I really appreciate your help. By the way, happy holidays! I think we might release the butterfly in the spring. Also, I heard that Black Swallowtails(most of them) live only for two weeks in the wild!

  40. Laiku Oh Says:

    hello. a sad ending to the story of the black swallowtail. it went to butterfly heaven. may it rest in peace. it wouldn’t eat yesterday. it died overnight. thanks for your help. merry christimas.

  41. Laiku Oh Says:


  42. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – Sorry to hear that the butterfly died. However, they are not long lived under the best of circumstances, and it sounds like yours did very well. You must have found it interesting to learn more about butterflies including how to feed them in captivity. Spring is not really so far away, so not too long until we can begin butterfly watching once more.
    Merry Christmas to you too and best wishes in the coming year!

  43. Laiku Oh Says:

    Just checking by-I hope you had a very happy New Year! I cannnot wait for new pets. By the way, here in New York, it was unusually warm before. Maybe the caterpillars will come early! ^^

  44. Laiku Oh Says:

    It snowed today, but just a little. Do you think we’ll get caterpillars by at least near the beginning of February? This is kind of a pathetic winter. I think we New Yorkers are just lucky that we don’t have feet of snow. Wed on’t even have an inch of snow, though? JUst chilly or frigid weather. I think we will have caterpillars early this spring season, like unripe fruit.

  45. Laiku Oh Says:

    *we don’t

  46. burning silo Says:

    Hi Laiku – Early February seems like it might be too soon – at least, it would be up where I live. My farm is about 40 miles north of the Canada-US border north-east of Syracuse, NY. We didn’t have any snow until about 10 days ago, which is absolutely weird for this area at this time of the year. However, we have about 6 inches of snow now – and it has turned cold. The temperature tonight is a bit below 0 F. I did actually find a caterpillar on the snow one day last week — I sometimes find caterpillars or other insects out on the snow. If you’re curious to see what is out and about on the snow, check out this gallery of my photos from last winter. I think most of the caterpillars I find on the snow are species of Noctuidae (a family of moths). You may be right about the caterpillars appearing early this year. It would be interesting to record the first date for seeing various kinds as, if we did that each year, we might see some change in response to climate.

  47. Laiku Oh Says:

    The springtails are so tiny! I didn’t know THAT many insects were kinda snow-dwellers. For New Yorkers, there’s really not that much snow. Barely a centimeter fell overnight. And the temperatures isn’t really that cold, you just need to bundle up a little.

  48. Courtney Says:

    i have a black swallowtail cocoon that is close to hatching. It is very cold here in Iowa, what should I do for caring for it once it hatches. Planning to let it free in the spring, when it is warmer.

  49. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – Yes, the springtails are very tiny! Most people don’t seem to know that they exist. There are quite a few insects that are active in winter. Last winter I found quite a few.
    Courtney – I guess it will be awhile until you get spring weather, right? I hope the swallowtail doesn’t hatch emerge for awhile yet as it’s really too soon. Most butterflies don’t live all that long after emerging — just a few weeks — so it will be better if stays put for now. If it isn’t in a cool spot, you could try moving the cocoon to a cooler place for a couple of weeks. I’m not sure what would be safe right now though. Also, I do know that some people who tag Monarchs keep the butterflies a cool place (like inside a refrigerator) if they can’t tag and release them immediately. I’m not sure how long you can hold them there though. Good luck with your butterfly!

  50. Laiku Oh Says:

    Today it was 9 degrees farenheit. We couldn’t go outside for recess, it was that cold. We usually go out only when it’s 30 degress and over. At this rate of weather, you’re probably right about the caterpillars not showing up by early February. Still no sign of snow, and I don’t think it will show up any time soon. Also- about the gallery, I find the pirata very interesting, with those sharply crooked leds and that sort of dirty-brown color on theirs legs and body. I wish you luck for your Swallowtail, Courtney! I raised quite a few, and I found it to be fun but slightly difficult.

  51. Laiku Oh Says:

    I mean degrees, not degress. Sorry. :)

  52. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – Yes, I don’t really think we’ll see any caterpillar until around the beginning of April, although it could be sooner where you are as it is further south. Yesterday, I don’t think the temperature reached 0F. It has been very cold (this morning it is 3F). Pirata are small wolf spiders and often seen moving about on the snow in the middle of winter. I don’t think they grow to be very large. I’ve seen them out on the snow even on really cold days, so they must be very cold tolerant!

  53. Laiku Oh Says:

    Today two park rangers came from the neighborhood park Fort Totten(it’s an army base as well!) to discuss some topics of entymology. I learned that one of the park rangers, when he was very young he was bitten by a Black Widow and he still has a wicked scar on his finger. The two men showed us some frames with assorted specimens of insects. One was a small beetle, and it looked a sort of greenish teal color.
    I saw some butterflies, too. I think one was a Buckwheat, not sure. My class will go on a school trip to study entymology. I’m so excited! There are some ticks in the really old spots where there’s a lot of dead wood, but they said we wouldn’t go in those sorts of areas.

  54. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – Sounds like an interesting class. I also know someone who got bitten by a Black Widow spider. It made him pretty sick for two or three days, but he was okay after. That may have been a “Buckeye” butterfly that you saw. I’m not sure that there’s one called a Buckwheat, but I could be wrong. The Common Buckeye is quite pretty… brown with big “eyes” on its wings. Here’s a webpage with photos of one and the caterpillar. The school trip sounds like it will be fun!

  55. Laiku Oh Says:

    Buckeye. I meant that, but I forgot to edit it. How embarassing… :)

  56. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – I’ve just posted a follow-up piece on the Black Swallowtail chrysalis that I kept this winter. The butterfly emerged yesterday. I’ve included mention of your comments here on this thread in this post. Here’s a link to it.

  57. Laiku Oh Says:

    This is the root of all our threads of blogs. It leads to a myriad of other topics, and many hold precious orbs of wisdom and warm humor. It leads to the experiences and sometimes loss and pain, but also warmth and knowledge.

  58. Laiku Oh Says:

    Yes, you’re right. The caterpillars will come in late March… Sigh.

  59. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – Yes, it will be awhile yet. We are still having very cold weather up here (below 0 F). However, it is supposed to warmer this weekend, and the forecast is for temperatures about 45F next week. The snow will melt quickly if we get a few warm, sunny days. Still, it’s a little while yet before we’ll see butterflies and caterpillars!

  60. Laiku Oh Says:

    Today, it was 40F! It was a little bit unusually chilly, but it’s an improvement!

  61. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – It was over 35F here today. The snow has melted quite a lot since yesterday, but it will take a few more days before the we see the grass. It’s also nice to have sunshine, and for it to be bright outside at 6 p.m.

  62. Laiku Oh Says:

    I want my precious one hour back… I always end up sleeping at 11:00 instead of 10! But no, people have to make it Daylight Savings when you least expect it…>

  63. Laiku Oh Says:

    It’s getting chillier, even though spring is right around the corner. It’s cool but not cold. It’s warm if you’re used to it. Tomorrow, I think, is 37 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s like the end of winter. Well, it is, but you know what I mean.

  64. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – It was below 30F here today, but I found a Woolly Bear caterpillar (the brown and black kind) crawling slowly along a path out in the meadow near my barn.

  65. Laiku Oh Says:

    I love caterpillars. The entomology trip is in April, I think. I’m going to a circus on the 18th of April. The weather is erratic. It changes all the time. But I’m thrilled. At the end of the week, it’ll be over 60 degrees Fahrenheit. By the way…Do you use Fahrenheit or Celcius, or have you just gotten used to both?

  66. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – Yes, I love caterpillars too. I just wrote a new post about them that you might enjoy reading. I’ll be you’re looking forward to the entomology trip. I’m sure it will be fun. It’s supposed to be close to 60F here on the weekend as well. We usually measure temperature in Celsius up here in Canada, but I’m used to using both, so can use either.

  67. Laiku Oh Says:

    I’m definitely looking forward to it! There’s a spot with ticks and rotten wood, they say, but we’ll avoid that certain spot. Just a random question- Are many caterpillars poisonous, with the little fuzzy spikes? I know there are more harmless ones- but I just want to know if there are a lot in this world. I’ll look at the post and comment if I can. Thank you!
    (\ /)

  68. burning silo Says:

    Laiku – yes, it’s true, there would be ticks in that area, but I’m sure the park rangers will know where it’s okay to go and how to watch out for the ticks. Regarding poisonous caterpillars, there aren’t too many species that cause skin irritation or rashes. Most of the ones that cause problems are easy to recognize by certain characteristics such as branching spines. The “fur” of some species can also be very irritating if you were to inhale it. That said, I’ve never had a problem with stings or rashes from caterpillars. The best thing to do is to get to know the species and just watch out for the ones that could be problematic. I rarely handle caterpillars anyhow as they are so small and fragile. When I have to move them around, I usually try to encourage them to move onto a leaf or blade of grass.

  69. Laiku Oh Says:

    That’s really clever. I can’t see any caterpillars around yet, though. I haven’t been able to get a good look around my retired science teacher’s garden… She has a really rich garden full of good soil, and she has loads and loads of veggies and flowers and seeds that she gives as freebies to everyone.

  70. Laiku Oh Says:

    Hello. It’s been nearly a month! I think my science teacher has been coming out- I just haven’t been able to see her. I can’t raise caterpillars-my parents don’t wwant that to happen. What am I supposed to do this spring? *sigh*

  71. burning silo Says:

    Hi Laiku – Yes, that does sound a bit disappointing about not being able to raise some caterpillars. However, I get a lot of enjoyment out of observing caterpillars right in the garden and also studying other insects there as well. Perhaps you can think of an interesting project to work on while observing insects and spiders in a garden such as your science teacher’s or a botanical garden, etc… If you like to do draw or paint, or also write, maybe you could do some art or even do your own nature journal on what you observe over the season. There is so much that can be learned from close observation of nature. If you find that idea of interest, you could check for nature journals, or books about how to keep a nature journal, at your library. Let me know if that’s of interest and I can find the names of a couple of good ones that I’ve seen or borrowed from the library up here where I live.

  72. Laiku Oh Says:

    Well, I do have a journal in which I keep the weather and sky data on… But it’s kind of amateur. I include personal things in there.

  73. Laiku Oh Says:

    BurningSilo, I need you to abet me in another insect situation. This time it is more like a predicament. There are moths, common house moths. I’m not sure what precise type they are, but they have infiltrated the house and are proliferating rapidly. They are not really chewing up our clothes, but… Would you like to have black moths with yellow dashes on their backs teeming in your house? Please help me.

  74. bev Says:

    Laiku – I can’t imagine how the moths would be coming into the house unless they’ve found a way in around windows or doors. Most moths don’t actually attack clothing (wool), so that’s probably not something to be concerned about. Do they seem to be active only in the evening when the lights are turned on?

  75. Tallulah Says:


    I plan to plant a butterfly garden soon, and I was wondering if the black swallowtail is a good garden visitor, and if I will get any in the first place. I have an average south Florida garden with few butterfly plants and I live on a lake. Should I bother planting dill and fennel to try to attract them to my garden?

  76. bev Says:

    Tallulah – According the this Florida website, it looks like Black Swallowtails would visit a Florida garden. I’ve found them feeding the caterpillars feeding on Bishops weed (goutweed) which is a very common garden plant. They do eat dill and fennel along with wild plants such as Queen Anne’s Lace. I think there would be a reasonably good chance that you might attracts some butterflies by planting the type of foodplants where they would lay eggs, so maybe it’s worth a try. Good luck!

  77. Tallulah Says:

    YAY!!! Thanks so much! I’m looking forward to my black swallowtails!

  78. Laiku Oh Says:

    Well, I asked my mom too, and she said most of the time. Sometimes we see them on the wall in broad daylight, but they usually are active and awake in the evening, yeah. My family wants to know how we can exterminate them. Can we do it by ourselves? How?

  79. Jana Says:

    I have two black swallowtail caterpillars. One got rid of its contents, and went looking for a place to “hang”. I put a stick in there in the morning, and by the afternoon, he had climbed on it and fixed his sling to it. However, he has not moved since. He did a few jerks, and moved a jerk when I put more food in for the other caterpillar. I can’t seem to find anywhere how long it takes them to go from this stage to the chrysalis. I lost several others to parasites, and am hoping that nothing has gotten this one. I haven’t seen anything emerge from the caterpillar. How long should I wait to see if it will form the chrysalis?

  80. bev Says:

    Jana – I didn’t actually see the Black Swallowtail caterpillar transforming into a chrysalis so I’m not sure of the amount of time it took. I think it became very quiet and I didn’t really check on it for a day and by the time I did, it was already looking much like a chrysalis. I don’t think they are anywhere near as quick or dramatic as the Monarchs.

  81. Jana Says:

    Thanks, Bev! Hope all goes well with our caterpillar…

  82. htyjtkjt Says:


  83. Jana Says:

    Thanks, Bev! Hope all goes well with our caterpillar…

  84. Candy Says:

    I just stumbled upon your website as many of the others have done, it seems, and I’m glad to read all the questions that you all have. I just discovered a tiny line green cat on my bronze fennel (actually 3 but one disappeared, 1 was deystroyed by an assassin bug right in front of my eyes and the other has just stayed put and keeps munching away. I’ve been checking on it when I get home from work the past two days and as of last evening, it was still there and has gotten a little larger. I was glad to find out that with each instar their appearance is transformed into something completely different ie color, etc because I spent hours online and looking through my butterfly books for pics of the cat I saw and was frustrated not to be able to ID it. Then, this morning, it occurred to me that perhaps the one I saw was just in one of the several instar phases and might turn out to look like the ones in the books (if it manages to elude the darn assassin bug and live to turn into a chrysalis)! Thanks for all the input!

  85. bev Says:

    Candy – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if your caterpillar is an early instar of the Black Swallowtail. They change greatly in appearance between the first and fifth instars, so just keep watching. They grow and molt to the next instars very quickly, so you may see major changes just in a couple of days. Good luck with the caterpillar. I hope the assassin bug stays away! (-:

  86. Tallulah Says:

    Hellooo. I am planing on planting a huge butterfly garden–130 sq. ft.!i would like to attract monarchs, zebra longwings, giant swallowtails, gulf fritillaries, gray hairstreaks, black swallowtails, julias, polydamas swallowtails, and white peacocks. I know all the plant requirements for these butterflies, but I live in South Florida and the soil is very sandy. I was wondering if I needed to buy $60 dollars worth of soil, or if my garden will be successful by itself.

  87. bev Says:

    Hi Tallulah – It would be better to talk to someone who is into gardening, or who has set up a butterfly garden in the past. I live on a 60 acre farm and all of the plants in my gardens are naturally occurring – basically, I’ve let the wild plants take over large parts of the garden and the fields haven’t been cultivated in over 20 years, so they are wild too. However, regarding your sandy soil, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to at least make sure that each plant has some good soil around its roots — perhaps what comes in the pots with each plant would be good enough. The best thing would be to find out the growing conditions preferred by each plant. Some plants will grow in very sandy soil, so maybe you don’t have to do anything special before planting them. Good luck with your garden. I hope it attracts many butterflies!

  88. Candy Says:

    Hi Tallulah

    Before I even began putting my BF garden together, I did lots of research online and in the library and most importantly, sent my soil samples into county extention center for analysis. In a couple of weeks, the results came back with lots of good advice and suggestions as to what to do to ‘beef up’ our soil even before we actually started putting down the plants. Is this your first garden or are you an experienced gardener. For me, it was trial by fire and as I worked on it over the past 3 years, I have learned alot but still feel like I haven’t even made a dent in the surface of all there is to know about plants, butterflies, etc. Do you have any master gardeners who live in your neighborhood? Cultivating (no pun intended) a good relationship with your local master gardener is very fulfilling and I can tell you that more often than not, I always came home with little freebie plants to stick into my own patch. Your plan sounds very ambitious and I wish you all the best in your endeavors.


  89. Kristine Says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I currently have a big Black Swallowtail caterpillar, happily munching away on the dill in my garden. Used to have two more, but they have disappeared – likely due to predatory bugs, birds, or landlady!
    I hope this last one survives to become its beautiful butterfly self. Thanks to Burning Silo for the great photos – very helpful in the ID process.

  90. Amy Says:

    Thanks for the great photo of the third instar, I was trying to identify a field collection from yesterday as to which instar in was in and a perfect match. Of course, it shed it’s skin overnight and now looks completely different. We have 9 cats right now, 7 of which just hatched this week from eggs I harvested after watching a female laying her eggs on the volunteer dill and queen anne’s lace in a soon to be mowed section of the old garden. This will be the summer brood and we hope to have a group from the fall brood as well since we are uprooting some of the dill to another area to attract them.
    It’s been about four years since we’ve raised black swallowtails, the last time it was a fall brood and due to the warmth of the house, one emerged from chrysalis in october, not good in the northeast. We successfully overwintered the remaining 5 chrysalis in a jar in the refrigerator, with a small dessicant pack to keep them from getting too moist and molding. We had 4 emerge and were released, the 4th housed a parasitic wasp, which was neat to see as well.

  91. Lorie Says:

    My family and I have about 11 Black Swallowtail caterpillar in different stages. We found them in our garden this past Saturday and din’t want the birds to get them.

    So far we have 1 cocoon and 3 in the ‘C’ shape. This morning, however, our only black one let go with it’s back instead of front and is now sorta swinging by the ‘girdle’.

    My questions is will it survive this and continue to make the cocoon?

  92. Lorie Says:

    Me again!

    Right after I posted above, the black one fell while making the cocoon. On the ground it continued but will it survive???

  93. bev Says:

    Lorie – I’m not sure what will happen. Perhaps someone else reading this thread will have an answer. With the monarchs, if they fall while making their chrysalis, that seems to be the end of them. I’m not so sure that’s the case with the Black Swallowtails. It may be possible to pick up the chrysalis and attach it to something so that it will be able to eclose properly later on.
    Amy – thanks for you comments on keeping the chrysalises in a jar in the fridge. It’s nice to hear about what works or doesn’t.
    Kristine – Good luck with your Black Swallowtail. Unfortunately, a lot of caterpillars are killed by predators. I’ve read that the odds are stacked something like 100 to 1 that a caterpillar won’t make it to be an adult. From observing monarchs in the fields here at my farm, I’d say those odds may actually be accurate.

  94. EPSILONature Says:

    Lorie – I’ve heard that sometimes when this happens and the cat is really desperate, it will form a chrysalis on the ground. If this happens post a note saying so and i can inform you what to to do.

    Amy – I’m currently raising BSTs my self and am very interested in the fridge trick. Should i lower the fridge’s temp. before i put the in pupae in it?

    Thanks and good luck, EPSILONature

  95. Tallulah Says:


    I have found a shiny gold-ish egg on a passiflora vine.I think it is yellow passiflora vine–it has small flowers and oval leaves. It is raised along the “back,” like a turtle shell, I guess. It is very difficult to explain! It’s like a small triangular prism that’s rounded at the ends. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  96. EPSILONature Says:

    What is Passiflora? I looked it up and it seems to be similar to Passion Flower/Vine. If so you have Fritillaries of some sort. One of the first caterpillars i ever raised were Gulf Fritillaries which i fed with the Passion plant. My cats were a shiny almost glistining orange with large black spikes, but yours could be different. Good Luck.

  97. Tallulah Says:

    Thanks for your ideas. I did see some gulf fritillary eggs, and they are drastically different. Thanks anyway!!

  98. GABY Says:

    Hi, Fellow Butterfly Lovers!


    I have a question: I ordered 3 black swallowtail pupae in the mail (from Ward’s Science), but they sent them to me loose and not attached to a branch or stick.

    They are brown, so I think that they over-wintered in a refrigerator.

    What should I do with them> I want to attach them to a branch (like they are in nature, heads up!), but how do I do this without harming them? I could gently attach the tail portion with a dab of glue, I presume….but what about the top part? In nature, they’re attached with a “sling” but I don’t know how to reproduce that.

    They are brown (look like dried leaves)—how do I even know they’re alive?

    Does anyone have some advice on ho0w I can safely hatch butterflies from the pupae?


  99. bev Says:

    Gaby – Maybe some of the others who seem to be monitoring this thread will have an idea of how to attach the pupae to a stick – or if it is even necessary. I would think they would pretty much need to be attached to something, as most butterflies must eclose and hang from something while their wings gradually fill and harden. I know that moths such as the Sphinx moths, emerge from pupae that are on the ground and will generally crawl up a nearby tree to rest after they emerge. Perhaps these butterflies are capable of this. I looked around the net and didn’t find much about this, but did find this recent post and photo on the Dave’s Garden site. By what this person wrote in the note accompanying her photo, I think it’s possible that these butterflies may have eclosed without being attached to something as she mentioned they crawled around like mad until she set them on zinnia flowers. See post here:
    Also, this photo shows two pupae attached to a screen or something by their threads.
    That’s what my last year’s Swallowtail cat attached its pupae too (window screen) which is what I was using for the Monarch cats.
    By the way, I don’t think using some kind of glue would be a good idea. It seems likely that just about any glue could go through the exterior of the pupa and have some bad effect on the developing butterfly. A thread might be a better way to fasten the pupae to a screen.

  100. StacyLula Says:

    I am so happy to see this site!!! My husband thinks I’m crazy for collecting monarch catterpillars!! One of my cats fell while making a crysilis. He’s laying there in the shape of a J on a leaf. I am hoping that he will continue into a crysilis. I guess I will find out in the morning. Wish me luck! Also any suggestions would be great. This is my first year raising monarchs and so far it’s been great!!

  101. StacyLula Says:

    He made it!!! I’m so happy!! He fell in the form of a J and I laid him on a leaf. He’s a crysalis this morning!!

  102. EPSILONature Says:

    The funniest thing happened this morning! My two biggest BSTs molted yesterday; when the two smallest (not nearly ready yet) saw it they immediatly molted too! I guess peer pressure exist with caterpillars as well!

    Why would any real science association be stupid enough to send deattached pupae?!?! The BSTs will survive, but if they hatch on the ground their wing will get damaged and be unable to fly. You should complain to Ward’s Science and demand a refund if (and when) the BSTs are damaged. I have heard (I’ve never tried it myself) that if squirt a dot of hot glue on a stick, what till it cools a little (but is still liquid) and GENTLY hold there until it dries. All this commotion will certaintly stress the pupae and might damage them but i don’t know what else to do.

    You’re lucky. What i posted for GABY might help you too. (I still can’t get over the fact that they sent them to her unattached!)


  103. EPSILONature Says:

    I almost forgot: i checked Ward’s Science (i must have overlooked it when i was thinking about purchasing some swallowtails; good thing too)and it says a USDA permit is needed. What is it? How can you get it? And do you have to be a certain age? (i’m only 11!)

  104. GABY Says:

    Thanks, EPSILONature and Bev!

    Yes, I was disappointed when I received 3 detached BST pupae in the mail. Now I have to watch them 24/7 or try to attach them to something without damaging them.

    Anyway, as to the permit: Ward’s first told me I needed a USDA permit and didn’t want to send me the pupae. Then they changed their minds & sent them to me anyway, so I didn’t have to get a permit. I live in IL and I think Papilio polyxenes is NOT illegal to import because it’s indigenous to Illinois. There was a permit included in the mail, though. I think that the sender should have the permit, not the receiver. It’s the sender’s responsibility to export their stuff legally to the states that permit import.

    Right now, I am raising about 10 caterpillars on dill & fennel plants, I hope it goes well. I didn’t need the expensive pupae from Wards after all!

  105. Tallulah Says:

    I have found a monarch with a torn wing, that proceeded to fall off. I am keeping him in a small cloche with some sunflowers and I am taking him out about three times a day. How long do you think he will live? He has just emerged from one of my chrysalises and can’t survive in the wild. Any suggestions?

  106. bev Says:

    Tallulah – Someone else may have something to add to this, but last year, out of the 55+ Monarchs that we reared, there was one that eclosed with a badly crumpled wing that never really improved much. She could fly just a little — perhaps 2 or 3 foot hops. I set her out in the front garden and we found her repeatedly for at least 2 or 3 weeks. We have a lot of flowers around our place, so she had no problem finding nectar to feed on. She spent most of her time just walking about on the flowers. I left for Oregon in early September, so I didn’t see how much longer she lasted, but I assume she probably did okay until the weather turned cold.

  107. Amy Says:

    Talullah, I had a monarch emerge last year that had pumped out the hemolymph in the chrysalis before emerging, so he could not plump up his wings and could not fly. He lasted about three weeks in the gallon jar I had him in, I gave him fresh flowers and sugar water every day. It got to the point that he would immediately extend his proboscis when I picked him up, he knew food was coming.

    EPSILONature, I didn’t change anything about our fridge when we did this, other than when I noticed some mold growth I put a small dessicant pack in the jar. All of the chrysalis survived, even though one was a parasitic wasp.

    About chrysalis color in BST, we currently have eight in chrysalis, two more forming, and two cats left. Out the eight, we have 2 green and 6 brown. The green ones are on light colored sticks and the brown on darker sticks. It must be camoflauge related, rather than seasonal. I’ll have to take a pic and give a link so you can see. I also think I’ll provide only light colored sticks for the remaining cats, just to see what happens.

    Keeping my eye out for monarchs, I don’t think they’re here yet. Spotted what might be one the other day but it could have easily been a viceroy, I couldn’t get close enough to tell. No eggs on the milkweed yet though.


  108. Amy Says:

    links to images of the 8 chrysalis, and a comparison of the largest and smallest

  109. EPSILONature Says:

    12 BSTs! Wow! My field guide says that they lay only a few eggs in the same spot, tending to spread out a lot. I managed only to get 4 layed on my small bunch of dill. You sure must have a lot of foodplants! I think is touching that your monarch extended it’s probiscis every time you picked it up.* I haven’t seen any Monarchs or Frittilaries yet, the Spicebush Swallowtails are still young as are my Black Swallowtails, but the Pipevine Swallotails are almost ready to pupate.

  110. EPSILONature Says:

    12 BSTs! Wow! My field guide says that they lay only a few eggs in the same spot, tending to spread out a lot. I managed only to get 4 layed on my small bunch of dill. You sure must have a lot of foodplants! I think is touching that your monarch extended it’s probiscis every time you picked it up.* I haven’t seen any Monarchs or Frittilaries yet, the Spicebush Swallowtails are still young as are my Black Swallowtails, but the Pipevine Swallotails are almost ready to pupate.

  111. EPSILONature Says:

    Sorry for the repeat, some kinda glitch.

  112. Amy Says:

    I just happened to be outside when I spotted a female laying eggs on my old garden patch, about 14′x25′ which has dill and volunteer queen anne’s lace in it that I thankfully hadn’t mowed down yet. I collected 8 eggs, the other 4 are field finds while I was picking food, and they were at a different age than my original 8, two older and two younger. I have since mowed, leaving the dill in about a 5′x 4 patch. hoping that when we release this batch of butterflies, they will stay close and use it.

    I should find out in another day if using the lighter color stick results in a green chrysalis, I have one of the last two hanging in a C shape now.

    I chased down an orangey butterfly yesterday, to see if it was a monarch or viceroy, but it turned out to be an painted lady once I got close.

  113. Tallulah Says:


    I just saw a black swallowtail for the first time in my yard!!! I am so excited to plant things for it. What is the best larval plant for the black swallowtails– dill, parsley, or queen anne’s lace?

  114. EPSILONature Says:

    From my experience, i would go with dill or parsley. I have looked on every single QAL plant within almost a square mile of my house and haven’t found a single cat on any of them. My friends always use parsley, and i am currently using dill. Both work fine. You can get a nice sized dill at Lowes for $2.50. The picture of the BST larva in my field guide show it with a white backround color (on parsley), but my BSTs have a limegreen tint to them. I’m guessing this has to do with foodplant choices. They are also known to eat Carrot tops, Celery Foilage and Fennel. GOOD LUCK!

    I looked at your picture and i hope you aren’t going to let them “hatch” on the ground! This cause wing damage of some kind to almost all adults that emerge this way. You should straddle them on the mouth of a large jar or something.


    P.S. Can anyone teach me how to post pics/links?

  115. Amy Says:

    No worries on the chrysalis, it was just an easy way to spread them out for a picture. We’ve done this before, right now they are resting on a slant in a large jar but because there are so many, I will be putting the sticks in florist foam at an angle in a larger container. It should be roughly another week until the first butterfly.

    The butterfly I observed laying eggs, which I later collected, laid them half and half between the dill and the queen anne’s lace. However, because I did not keep track of who hatched on what, I gave them fresh leaves of both because they supposedly stick with the food plant they start out on. Invariably, they ate the dill and didn’t touch the queen anne’s lace so I’m not sure that is true or not. The batch from a few years past we found on the carrots and fed them both that and qal, which are closely related anyway. If you’re using plants in pots, set them at least a few feet apart, the female chooses a certain distance between where she lays her eggs.

    I noticed this time around that the 4th instar has more of a white background and the 5th is much greener, other than that and size, they are very similar in appearance.


  116. Sandra Marsh Says:

    have just discovered two wonderful things this morning, this web site and a mass of black swallowtail caterpillars of all sizes living in the dill garden – have no experience in raising butterflies or grandchildren to give me the incentive,
    what happens if nature takes its course?

  117. EPSILONature Says:

    Sorry! I was just making sure :)
    Thanks for the color tip; i thought it was foodplant choices. How many instars are there? Mine are REALLY green now, probably in the 5th or 6th and i want to know when they’re getting ready to pupate.

    Sandra Marsh,
    If you let them be, chances are a couple will die. I depends if you are capable/willing to raise them. I have 4, each one on it’s own Lowe’s potted dill plant. I have these in a cheap little hamper that is fold-out, and made out of netting. I keep this on my screened-in porch. (One got out today, so i’m going to get a top for it!) GOOD LUCK!

    I was reading some later postings and you said you live in South Florida. You are sooooo lucky! It has more different types of caterpillars then anywhere else in the US! And some are year-round. My field guide (Caterpillars of the Eastern US) has so many just-southern FL-and-southern-TX caterpillars! Gulf Frittilaries (one of my favorites) lifes there year-round as does it’s fellow Passion-Flower-Eating counterparts, Zebra Longwing and Julia!!!!!! Definitly plant some PF, and you will get tons of cats!


    P.S. isn’t the Zebra longwing the national butterfly of FL?

  118. EPSILONature Says:

    I am sooooooooooooo upset! :(
    One of my caterpillars got out of it’s cage and got caught in a spider web. It must of died while i was gone. :(
    Now i’m down to 3. I think i’ll bury him/her by my dill. :(

  119. StacyLula Says:

    When a crylalis turns brown before it’s time can I assume it’s dead? I have one that looks like that Tachnid fly or whatever it is got it. But I have two others That I’m leaving alone till I know for sure. Also, I was watching one of my pillars molt ito the crysilis and he was working on getting off the skin for 30 min. I could tell he was drying out so I helped him. It was going good until there was this band of skin around his neck and he was so fragile I just couldn’t do it. So close!!! Is there any type of oil or something to keep them moist should this happen again? When they molt it happens so fast I just felt so bad for him he was working on it for so long. It’s like his skin was too dry.

  120. StacyLula Says:

    I just found a Tiger Swallowtail in my driveway. Looks fourth instar. What do I do? I’m a Monarch chic!

  121. EPSILONature Says:

    When a chrysalis turns black it either means it’s ready or it’s dead. If you move the bottom part of the chrysalis, and it stays that way then it’s definitly dead. If things are getting dried out, then just mist the cage occasionaly.
    And about the (Eastern) (It might depend on where you live?) Tiger Swallowtail, it eats magnolia, black cherry and tulip tree. I’ve looked at a lot of magnolias and tulip trees but haven’t found any.

  122. bev Says:

    Hello everyone – I usually reply to comments on my blog, but I’m just going to sit back and leave all of you to discuss your caterpillar raising experiences. I’m raising a few too, but mostly moths and am writing about that on more recent posts here on my blog. I’ll leave the comments for this Black Swallowtail Caterpillar open for now (I usually close them if they start receiving spam) – so carry on with your discussions! (-:

  123. StacyLula Says:

    Thanks EPSILONature!

  124. EPSILONature Says:

    I forgot, they also eat sweetbay and ash, but especially the others.

  125. EPSILONature Says:

    Thanks Bev! I love this site.

    Can you tell me how to put pictures on this site?



  126. bev Says:

    Hi Epsilon – There isn’t a way for commenters to post photos on my blog. However, what you could do is to create a photo gallery on Flickr
    It’s free. You just register – it only takes a couple of minutes. You can start up a group gallery that others could post photos to, and also post comments. It might actually work better than posting comments to this old entry on my blog as other people would be able to find the gallery and discussions for easily. Anyhow, if you do set up a gallery, just post a link to it here and anyone reading this thread can find there way over to the new gallery to join in the discussion.

  127. EPSILONature Says:

    Thanks bev!

  128. EPSILONature Says:

    It says i posted my last note (saying “thanks bev”) at 6:56.
    I did it at 8:55. Wierd! Oh well, i guess it doesn’t matter anyway! (:


  129. StacyLula Says:

    My Tiger swallowtail died. I found him alive but motionless on my driveway. Maybe he fell out of a tree? Poor guy.

  130. Betty Ziskovsky Says:

    I have not found the answer to this question although it’s been asked several times on this blog, so I will ask it again. I found a BST caterpillar yesterday on a carrot top and since it was quite large, brought it in. This morning it had gotten itself in a J-formation and attached itself to a twig with the sling you have all spoken of. I have watched it all day. It has had what can best be described as little seizures. But for the most part it has just stayed quite still in the same position. Can you please tell me how long it takes before the caterpillar starts to actually form the chrysalis? Does it stay suspended like this for 24 hours, 48? What? I’d really appreciate knowing what to expect? Thanks – Betty

  131. bev Says:

    Betty – I just raised one BST last year, and can’t really remember how long it took to make a chrysalis. I would think it could take at least 24 hours from the time it attaches itself to a stick, but perhaps someone else reading this will have a better idea as many of the people who have been posting comments on this thread have raised several of these butterfly cats.

  132. EPSILONature Says:

    Just last week my caterpillar did that too. It was moving it’s head as if it were looking around for food, and so i picked it up and put it on my dill. It later died, so i’d suggest just leaving it alone. The other healthy ones, (only two! :( I started out with four) took about 2 days.
    GOOD LUCK!! :)


  133. Tallulah Says:

    I know that the giant swallowtails’ larval host plant is wild lime. Is that the same as just an ordinary lime tree? If I go to Home Depot and ask for a lime tree, will this suffice?

  134. EPSILONature Says:

    I don’t know, but i do know that they also eat hoptree, prickly ash, torchwood, and most other plants in the citrus. (ex: your lime tree) If the lime tree isn’t to expensive, and you have the space i’d say give it a try (it’s risky; but at least you’ll have a new addition to your fruit salad! I love key lime pie) :), but if you were to buy a hoptree, for example, you would definitly get some cats.

  135. StacyLula Says:

    My monarch hatched, the one that fell while making the crysalis, his wings are bent and one of his legs is bent. He likes to hang on my shirt while I do house work. I keep him in my screen porch when he’s not hanging out with me. Anyways, He won’t eat like my other butterflies. I offer him sugar water but he’s not interested. What kind of flower can I offer him that he will eat?

  136. julie g Says:

    Greetings, and thanks for all the great info! I found a very large green catipiller that looks a lot like the first photo here, but it is about 3″ long and 1/2″ in diameter. Does that sound like a swallowtail? Thanks! Julie

  137. Lisa Says:

    I overwintered about 20 BST chrysalises and succeeded in releasing 5 BSTs this spring. 20% Not that good but not that bad. I did not know too much about what I was doing just what I could glean from the web.
    Now, I have a newly formed chrysalis in my garden and I want to know about how long it will take before a butterfly emerges.

  138. Tallulah Says:

    I was wondering if any citrus plant will attract giant swallowtails to lay eggs on. If I just buy a dwarf orange tree (for example) will this work? I don’t want to spend $40-$50 on a big lime tree– I’m only 14!!! What do you guys suggest? Thanks.

  139. Tallulah Says:

    I feel like an addict to the web putting two questions one after the other, but oh well. I forgot to ask this. What nectar sources should I plant for a south Florida garden? I know what larval plants to buy, but not that many nectar sources. Thanks again!

  140. dagan Says:

    It’s official… I just found two fifth instar black swallowtail caterpillars in a fennel plant on my roof in Brooklyn…. That’s right… Brooklyn, baby!!

  141. Tallulah Says:

    Congrats Dagan!

  142. Carolyn Says:

    Sorry I don’t have any suggestions for anyone on caring for butterflies as I am a novice! But I am so excited I just had to share my finding! I have approximately 50 Black Swallowtail caterpillars, some in the late stage, on my rather large fennel. I had a few last year but this find is amazing to me! I would love to post some pictures but am not aware of a site I can do that. I live in Raleigh, NC. Would love to hear about other experiences!

  143. EPSILONature Says:

    I’m almost 12, Tallulah’s 14, are there any other younger caterpillar fanatics out there?

    Julie G., It’s probably an older BST.


  144. StacyLula Says:

    I’m 30. Is that still young?!

  145. Renee Says:

    We live in Texas, over the past couple days wee have collected several black swallowtail cats from our yard, some quite small. We have been feeding them parsley, dill, and carrot tops (which are the plants we found them on). I am wondering what we should put them in though so that they can mature. Also, will they overwinter here in the south? If not, how long will they remain in the chrysallis stage before emerging? Thanks for your help, your site has been very informative.

  146. Tallulah Says:

    I was wondering if anyone know about how big a hoptree gets and can it be cut to size without damage? And are there any other plants that will attract giant swallowtails? Polydamas swallowtails (besides Dutchman’s pipe)?

  147. EPSILONature Says:

    Definitly! My 95 year old great-gramma says she’s 21!

    I know Giant Swallowtails eat Torchwood and Prickly Ash, but no help on the Poldamas.

    June through August there is one brood, their children over-winter as a chrysalis. The overwinterer’s children will be next years June-Aug. brood.

    Does anyone know how long BST’s are in their chrysalis? I need to know when to expect the two remainers!


  148. StacyLula Says:

    ;) You guys are funny! I hatched 5 monarch butterflies today, two yesterday and two the day before. They all flew away…*tear* I still have my little guy that has crinkly wings. I’ve been feeding him sugar water. What else do ya’ll suggest I feed him?

  149. Tallulah Says:


    I’ve heard that Gatorade works well. Also try offering him old fruit thats all mushy, like peaches. Hope this helps!

  150. EPSILONature Says:

    It must be universal emergance day! One of my BST’s (female) hatched and my other chrysalis is so close, i can see it’s wings through it. What kind of flowers do BST’s prefer?

  151. StacyLula Says:

    Thanks Tallulah!

  152. EPSILONature Says:

    Both of the BST butterflies where females so i let them go. Hopefully they will find and a male and come back; and hopefully my dad will finally bring me to Lowe’s to get more Dill before they do.
    Best of lick to you all,


  153. EPSILONature Says:

    HA HA HA HA HA! SORRY, luck not lick! :0 :) ;)

  154. StacyLula Says:

    Ha best of lick!! You kids should get Myspaces. In case you do my address is add me. I hatched a grand total of 30 monarchs so far this summer!!I have two that are hatching tomorrow. How many have all of you hatched this summer?

  155. Tallulah Says:

    Facebook is cooler than Myspace. :0)

  156. Tallulah Says:

    Just wondering if there are any specific plants black swallowtails prefer over others. All I’ve planted for them is some dill and parsley. What do you guys suggest?

  157. StacyLula Says:

    Facebook? I’ll check it out. Ummm…Where can I get some swallowtails? I love my monarchs but I would really like to try swallowtails.

  158. EPSILONature Says:

    Tallulah and StacyLula,
    Build it and they will come! Since the BST’S lay small amount of eggs in many different locations, your bound to get some. I got 4 on my first try! From my experience, Dill is the best and Parsley is the second-best. QAL is the least favorite, mostly a last resort if you know what i mean.
    Good Luck, EPSILONature

  159. Tallulah Says:


    Where do you live?

  160. Gretchen Says:

    What a great website! Thanks for all the information.

    My sad story is that we found a lovely Black Swallowtail caterpillar on our parsley plants (in Northern California), and put her in a little “bug catcher” cage of my son’s. We put in lots of fresh parsley, and she ate some of it (and has been pooping quite a lot), but now instead of hanging out with her food or going to the stick we put in for her and hanging herself from a thread there, she has stopped eating, has attached herself to the fine wire mesh of the cage, sort of upside down, and now there is a sort of white fuzz growing on the mesh where her head touches it and where her tail touches it.

    Is it possible this means anything good? Sure doesn’t look like a butterfly forming a chrysalis to me . . . Here’s hoping, but if something’s going wrong and anyone knows what it is, I’d like to know. (If it makes a difference, I have no reason to think it’s a girl caterpillar; my son just named her “Amy.”)


  161. StacyLula Says:

    Gretchen, Tallulah and ESILONature are experts on these little creatures! It sounds like a fungus or something. If she’s the only one you have then just watch her. If you find more don’t put them in the same cage so they won’t catch what she has (should it be a fungus of some sort). But like I said wait for one of those two to reply to you because they are smart!! And everyone else on this website is too of course!

  162. EPSILONature Says:

    I’m flattered, HA HA HA HA :)
    (I like to think i’m an expert!)

    I recently lost a BST who turned brownish-black halfway through the process.


  163. Tallulah Says:

    I NEED HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I just picked up a piece of wood that was sitting in my yard (it was sort of damp) and found a BEAUTIFUL larvae of some sort. it was just scant of an inch long, black, large thorax (?) and an eye spot. There was some yellow lines at the end of it and I need to know what this is!!!! There was also a faint brown stripe down the side of it. Any ideas would be great!

    Oh, and I, too, am deeply flattered! I never thought I would be thought of as a butterfly expert!!!

  164. EPSILONature Says:

    Are you sure it’s a caterpillar? Post a picture on that website bev posted above. I’m curious what it is.


  165. Tallulah Says:

    I tried to take a picture, but I dropped my dig. cam. in my lake, and it doesn’t work. I have another, but it is such low quality. It reminds me of a spicebush swallowtail, but only in its shape. Mine is black. I’ll try to take a picture.

  166. Tallulah Says:


    THe caterpillar is gone! I put it back where I found it, and it is gone, not surprisingly. What a shame.

  167. Gretchen Says:

    Thanks for your advice! However, things are looking up: Our Amy formed a chrysalis today! So, who knows if she will ever hatch out, but at least the situation is better than I’d feared.

  168. StacyLula Says:

    Gretchen…That’s great! I hope Amy turns into a beautiful butterfly!!

  169. EPSILONature Says:

    I recently found some eggs of some sort, i don’t what they they are. . . maybe i’ll get lucky, who knows.

  170. EPSILONature Says:

    I was re-reading some old postings from last month, what ever happened to your “passiflora” eggs? Did they hatch yet what are they?

  171. Tallulah Says:

    Oh, the goldish ones? They actually turned out to belong to a beautiful leaf-footed bug. They are soooo cool! Mune had super big leaf legs, unlike many pics on the web. :^D

  172. Tallulah Says:


    mine* not mune!

  173. EPSILONature Says:


  174. Tallulah Says:


    Where do you live? Strange question, I know, just wondering butterfly-wise.

  175. StacyLula Says:

    Yeah where do you guys live? I live in WI. Monarchs are aplenty here. So are painted ladies. I’m not very familliar with the painted ladies, maybe that should be my project for next year!!

  176. Tallulah Says:

    I’m down in South Florida :). monarchs, gulf fritillaries, and zebra longwings are casualties over here. how about everyone else?

  177. EPSILONature Says:

    I am sooooo jealus! (I know i didn’t spell that right…) Gulf Frittilaries are my favorite and where i live (SC) there just coming into season. I’m so excited.

    And come on, StacyLula isn’t that mean! HA HA HA HA :) My very first butterfly project was one of thos Scholastic Butterfly boxes you know when i was like 5, they send you about 5 caterpillars on some chemical sludge i guess made from their foodplant the mallow. I wonder if it tastes like marshmallows? :)

    Best of luck,


  178. Tallulah Says:


  179. Charla Says:

    Hello everyone. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s stories and decided to share my own experience…
    One day I decided to pick some parsley for some potato soup and noticed little eggs stuck to my parsley. I picked whatever parsley I could find that didn’t have eggs on it. Right before I was about to chop it, I decided to examine it once more, and of course there were eggs on there too. I left it on the counter, and the next day grabbed it to throw outside, and there was a tiny black caterpillar hanging by a thread. I looked outside at the rest of my parsley and behold-a whole bunch of tiny black caterpillars!
    So I started to bring them in when it rained and they kept growing and growing. I decided to keep them outside and I put chicken wire around them and the plants and a plastic lid on top. Obviously, this would only keep the birds away, but it’s all I have. Then, a few days ago, they started to wander around the porch. I kept putting them back on the plants. Then I started to run out of food, and called all over town to find parsley with no pesticides, and no luck. So I resulted to organic celery. Only a few would eat that. And that night I had 24 caterpillars.
    The next day there was no parsley left and my biggest caterpillars grew 2 more cm and had reached the 5th instar! I started to count and only could find 19. I also spotted a small skink hanging around next to them! I’m sure he found a tasty snack.
    Finally, I had a chance to drive an hour to buy more parsley. When I returned there were only 10 caterpillars and one was lieing dead on the ground. They started munching immediately. Today, there is still 9 remaining, and found two green anole lizards lurking around. I’m just hoping that my last nine don’t decide to wander off! I’ve tried looking in the bushes and trees next to the porch for any chrysalises starting to form, but no luck. I keep looking around, and now realize that they aren’t coming back. I suppose they have been eaten by lizards.
    I don’t understand why the smaller caterpillars would leave their food source though. They were only in 3rd or 4th instar! It has been frustrating, but yet a joyful experience. I wish I had something else to keep these last 9 in to protect them.
    Good luck to all of you who are helping these amazing little insects! And thanks for all the info.

  180. Charla Says:

    Link to photo of Black Swallowtail caterpillar.

  181. Charla Says:

    oh ya, i forgot to mention, that the black swallowtail butterfly kept coming back for 3 days in a row to lay more eggs. i had to stop it bc there wasn’t enough parsley. and the eggs that it was able to lay while holding the plant, ended up getting eaten along with the rest of the parsley plant later on. unless it fell off, but i know that the caterpillars eat their own egg shells after hatching.

  182. Charla Says:

    here’s another of my photos…a bee and caterpillar sharing food in harmony

  183. Tallulah Says:

    Great experience! Where do you live, Charla? I have a suggestion on how to keep your cats. I made a cloche out of some fishnet stuff that I got from my local crafts store, a big pot, and some thick wire. I made four holes in the side of the pot, close to the rim. I cut two long lengths of wire and bent them in half. I made a sort of wire tee-pee. I put the ends through the holes and bent the ends up, to secure them. I tied the tops together, so they didn’t move that much. I then wrapped the fishnet around mu wire, making sure that there weren’t any places the cats could escape (I had monarchs). Then, just plant some parsley in the pot. PRESTO!!!

    Hope this helps anyone!

  184. Charla Says:

    Hey Tallulah,
    I’m living in South Carolina right now. Whew, it’s sooo hot outside. I guess the caterpillars don’t mind too much. Thanks for the advice. That sounds very creative. I thought of using some tulle and maybe wrapping it around the chicken wire. I don’t have a large enough pot, but I do have large, plastic storage bins. I just wasn’t sure if I need to wash any of the materials I use. I read that caterpillars are suseptible to bacteria, and I just wanted to be sure that it wouldn’t be a problem, even though there’s an endless amt. of bacteria outside anyway.
    I still have my 9 loyal caterpillar friends, most of which are in their 5th instar. It’s weird how they all reached their different stages at different times when they all hatched the same day. It seemed that the caterpillars that were eating the parsley seeds and flowers when they first hatched grew faster.

  185. EPSILONature Says:


    Mune, lick, and now mu! It’s a good thing there aren’t any English teachers writing in. HA HA HA :)

    I live in SC too, where are you?


  186. EPSILONature Says:

    Yeah, BST butterflies lay the eggs on the flower tips, and newborn cats prefer that foliage, i guess it’s better for the babies. It’s kinda dangerous though because many people (like me) clip the flower tops off, so the plant can become bigger instead of one tall stem with little branches.

  187. Vanessa Says:

    I am so excited!!! I live in Southwestern Ontario and have 2 swallowtail caterpillars on our pot of parsley. At first my mom thought they were grubs or something destructive. I knew that they were some type of butterfly but didn’t know what kind. I looked up what they were online and we were very pleasantly surprised! Now we are anxiously awaiting some chrysalis action. It is still really warm here so I am thinking we will see them turn to butterflies this year. They are so adorable! One eats while the other one sleeps. They are getting very big! This site has been verrry helpful. Thanx guys. I will keep ya posted on the progress, I am taking some pics tonite.

  188. Charla Says:

    Hey EPSILONature, I live in Dalzell, next to Shaw AFB. Where do u live? I usually cut off the tops of my parsley, but I only had 2 plants at the time so it was all used up except the flowers and seeds.
    My caterpillars are on their 5th plant! They’re driving me crazy now. I spent several hours making a cage for them yesterday (thanks to Tallulah’s inspiration). But they are still getting out! One fell under my porch and I couldn’t reach it, then it disappeared. I keep looking through the cracks of my porch but no luck. There’s another missing, and there’s one that keeps trying to escape cuz i think he wants to pupate, and is not satisfied with the sticks i’ve provided.
    I brought them in for now bc it’s sweletering outside, and could no longer babysit out there. I don’t want them to leave bc i don’t think they’ll make it. Especially with all the lizards hanging around! Ugh, i don’t want to give up, i just don’t know what to do. I’m hoping he’ll tire out and make do with what i’ve given him!

  189. Charla Says:

    Good luck Vanessa! U’re lucky you only have 2. They can be a handful. I do miss my missing 15. But yet relieved bc I’d be constantly buying parsley!
    Are you keeping them enclosed in something outside? How big are they? My biggest one is about 5cm! He’s a fatty.

  190. Vanessa Says:

    Haha! I bet! I could’ve had more to start with. We just noticed them the other day. They are exactly the same size and I would say pretty close to 2 inches. I think they will chrysallis within the week. So who knows there might have been 20. I am not keeping them enclosed. I am lucky because further north here we don’t have lizards. Plus they are on a pot on my deck and they have not gone far yet because they are constantly eating! lol I can imagine if you had thirty tiny ones how that would be a challenge! I hope you can save the rest! Good luck!!! I hope I get some more next year!

  191. Vanessa Says:

    I spoke too soon. As of last night the caterpillar that I am pretty sure was close to doing the chrysallis thing is gone. I am not sure if he got eaten or wandere of to make his chrysallis. I will have to look better for him when I get home. The other one though is still happily munching away. I will have to make an enclosure now cause I don’t want to lose this one.

  192. Tallulah Says:

    Speaking of having 30 cats, I actually DID have 36 monarchs! Sadly, I only saw 3 through to be butterflies.

  193. Tallulah Says:

    Uh, I think I put a picture of my cloche on if anyone wants to see it. If you need my id, it’s “tallulah.orcel”. I think you can find it if you search for “butterfly cloche”. I also think I officially have the LAMEST Flickr page ever! lol :)

  194. EPSILONature Says:


    i keep my caterpillars in a cheap foldable hamper on my screened-in porch. Very well you may think, although ther are no lizards, the spider-webs were enough to strangle the unlucky caterpillar that escaped from it’s safe haven. The point is, raising caterpillars is not easy and there probably isn’t a perfect way to raise them. Everybody has there own unique way that has it’s pros and cons. Only 2 outta my 4 made it.


  195. EPSILONature Says:

    Where is Dalzell and Shaw-something? I’m the Upstate towards Greenville.

  196. Charla Says:

    Hello people,
    It’s sad to say that I did find the caterpillar again that fell under my porch. He was covered in ants as soon as he reached the grass. I found him too late! I knocked off all the ants, but he was already gone. I never found the other one. My hope has diminished for the survival of any of the other missing cats. I have one cat that is pupating. He has the string attached to him. The others are getting ansy now and want to escape to pupate. Then i have one smaller one, which has a while to go. I’ve run out of parsley again. I was going to drive an hour to the only place i know of, but they closed early due to the heat.
    Do y’all think they will be okay with just the parsley stems? I hope they make it through the night!
    I’m sorry Vanessa that yours escaped. Hang on to the other one!
    Sorry Tallulah, i couldn’t find your pic on I searched butterfly cloche and tallulah.orcel & nothing.
    EPSILONature, I actually thought about using a hamper too, but decided to make one out of chicken wire, then i sewed tulle to the outside and folded over the top wire to secure a cardboard lid. Do you think it’s okay that i brought them inside? or do they need to stay outside? Shaw Air Force Base is right next to Sumter. It’s about 45 min from Columbia. I think u’re like 2 1/2 hours from me.

  197. Charla Says:

    Yay! I have my first chysalis. I can’t believe I missed it. I kept checking, but it happened w/n 30 min that I didn’t look. I can see it’s old skin on the ground, and the pupa was moving. It’s green with some brown and still has some spots.

  198. EPSILONatutre Says:

    No such luck either. Can you post a link to the site?

    Congrats everbody, I’m currently not doing much so i’ll be enjoying your stories for a while.

    It shouldn’t be a problem, but the second breed, (right now) overwinters in their chrysalis, and so if the feel warm air they will come out toi early and die. Put them in a unheated room or leave them outside. Amy said that you can put them in a fridge to imitate winter whesther, but i’ve never tried it.

  199. Tallulah Says:


    I brought all my monarchs in and they were fine.

  200. Vanessa Says:

    Well, I haven’t found my other cat I am sure he is happily chrysallising away somewhere in my yard. I have been busy the last few days so I have ended up looking for him crawling around in the dark with a flashlight. I am sure the neighbours think I am crazy. The other one has slowed down and has taken a liking to a paint can on my deck. He has been there for about 14 hours now. I am just hoping he stays where he is cause I have not made him an enclosure, I have been suuuper busy. So I am serisouly keeping my fingers crossed. Thanx for the ideas though on the enclosures. I will def make one tonight if he is still there.

  201. Tallulah Says:

    Does anyone live in South Florida?

  202. Charla Says:

    Thanks for the advice. I’ll put them back outside today, now that most of them are starting to pupate. Luckily for them, our ac hasn’t been working well, and it has been hot inside too. I got up at like 5 am and had to check to see what they were up to. I actually got to see how they attach the string without changing location. Their bottom suction legs stay stuck to their chosen spot, then they bend their upper body backwards and make the stringy stuff from side to side with their legs and i guess their mouth. He went back and forth a few times wrapping it around his waist. It was soo cool to watch bc i was wondering how they did that without moving.
    The first chrysalis turned brown now, so they will prob all be brown bc they’re attaching themselves to the wire. They don’t like my sticks i guess.
    you prob won’t need to make an enclosure if he’s been there that long. Check to see if he made the string yet, and u will know for sure. Also, if u want to experience him turning into a chrysalis, check on him 24 hrs after he’s been there. Mine changed about 26 hrs later.

  203. Charla Says:

    I have a big problem! I was positive one of my caterpillars would turn into a chrysalis last night bc the other one did and they built thier strings at the same time. He shaking and moving around a bit last night. Now I went to check on him and he fell out of his string! He’s hanging upside down by his back suckerfeet, and he looks darker. I don’t know how to put him back or if he’s dead or not.
    Someone please help!

  204. Charla Says:

    Here are some pictures. I think he’s dead! I wonder what happened b/c he looked fine last night. Maybe he didn’t like the flashes from my camera…
    If he’s dead, do I need to remove him in case he has something the others would catch? The only thing I can think of was that there was a little mold growing on their droppings that were on the soil of the plants. Maybe it infected him?
    Also, does the rain affect the chrysalis? Prob not, but just wondering.

  205. Tallulah Says:

    UGH! That’s rancid Charla! :)
    I’m sorry about your cat. Once, I had a monarch that fell while he was in th J position. I had one pupate while I held it, once, but this time it was late at night, and he still had a while to go. I ended up tying his last feet to a stick (like I was holding him). But in the morning, I found him dead with his chrysalis half way done. I don’t know if this would work for you, even if mine wasn’t successful.

  206. Charla Says:

    That’s crazy sounding, and sad. Did the fallen monarch survive? He has to be dead though bc he looks a lot worse now, like he’s rotten or something. It doesn’t make sense though bc he looked fine last night. UGH! It’s frustrating. I guess I should remove him, but I’m afraid to touch him, yuck.
    How long have you been raising butterflies? I bought a couple scabiosa plants yesterday for when my butterflies hatch. Just today I’ve seen a bunch of butterflies flying around: Tiger swallowtail, female black swallowtail, a skipper, and some yellow ones.

  207. Charla Says:

    Nevermind, it was a black swallowtail that I saw; it was a pipevine swallowtail.

  208. Tallulah Says:

    I’ve only just started growing butterflies, but my fascination with them is life-long.

  209. GABY Says:

    I just raised about 25 healthy BST cats to the chrysalis/butterfly stage (the last baby just left to become a chrysalis ). I bought 3 large collapsible butterfly habitats (fine mesh) on Ebay and I had them outside the whole time. My secret was to keep a “nursery” of eggs, newborn to about 4th instar cats on a potted fennel plant. When they got to the last stage, I picked them from the nursery and moved them to fresh dill cuttings that I cut every second day from our community garden that has dill & Queen Anne’s lace growing like weeds (important: make the gardeners your friends!!). Sometimes I find a newborn cat on the dill cuttings I brought home—I moved them to the nursery also so the big cats wouldn’t eat them.

    When they are ready to wander, I move them to the chrysalis tent where I keep branches & sticks for them. Now I have about 14 chrysalises left, all cats are finally gone.

    Now we can sit back and wait for the fruits of our labor to hatch!

    With this method we did not lose one even! I know that they would not have survived had we left them out in nature. I think the ratio is about 100:1 for survival. They’re easy prey for spiders, birds, wasps, etc.

    The secret is: keep them well aired, clean, fresh plants every second day (keep them in water but plug the opening so cats can’t drown), clean out the plentiful droppings, etc.

    BTW, rain won’t hurt them. I left them out in heavy rain—no problem!

  210. GABY Says:


    I almost lost one little guy also. He decided to spin his pillow and harness right on the zipper of the habitat. I opened it (didn’t see him), and he fell off -well, he hung by his back feet upside down.

    I waited for him to harden/dry out a bit more and gently pulled him off his webbing. He had not transformed into a chrysalis yet. Luckily his harness was intact and he had some stuff left on his back feet. I gently glued him by his harness and his back feet on a branch, just as they would hang in nature. I used 2 dabs of glue, some tweezers, etc. to glue hin to the branch. He was able to change to a chrysalis, no problem – I just had to re-glue his bottom tip that became loose when his skin came off. I’m now awaiting his emergence as a butterfly.

  211. ESPILONature Says:

    That’s amazing Gaby, i never would have been able to pull that off!

    What types of plants do you use? I’m just curious.

    Gaby: Fennel/dill
    EPSILONature: Dill
    Charla: Parsley

  212. Tallulah Says:

    I’m so sad, because I planted a butterfly garden with dill and parsley, but I haven’t seen one BST. Do you guys have any handy BST secrets?

  213. GABY Says:


    I was wondering where all the actual butterflies are!!! Even though I brought home many tiny BST caterpillars and BST eggs on the wild-growing feeding plants (dill, parsley & Queen Anne’s lace). But I’ve never seen any caterpillars in nature beyond the first two instars. Nor have I seen the actual butterflies this year. But they must be around otherwise there wouldn’t have been any eggs or cats. I am assuming they are rare these days (with their habitat dwindling). Considering that one female lays over 200 eggs, a single butterfly actually could leave a lot of eggs on a whole bunch of plants.

  214. GABY Says:

    One more thing:
    if y’all want to actually make sure that you raise all caterpillars to pupae, the secret is: keep them outside (for ventilation/air), and inside a well-ventilated habitat. You can get these collapsible fine-mesh habitats relatively cheaply ($14 for a small onne, and maybe $23 for a large one).

    I keep my pupa habitat in the shade, and move the caterpillar habitats around, either shade or sometimes sun–depending how hot it is. I put the pottet fennel plant in the sun for a couple of hours a day if it’s not too hot since fennel does need sun to thrive.

    As said, the worst predators of small caterpillars are spiders, ants, wasps. When/if they get big, then it’s birds and small mammals. If you eliminate all these threats and keep yout cats happy and clean, you should be successful. BST cats are very easy to raise.

  215. GABY Says:

    …excuse my typos—it’s still early in the morning, and I haven’t had my cofee yet…

  216. EPSILONature Says:

    It just goes to show how important “cofee” can be sometimes. :) :) :)

    BST butterflies are really smart*, and won’t lay more than a couple eggs in a square yard regardless of how many plants there are. So, i suggest making two seperate little dill/parsley garden about 5 feet apart.

    *as opposed to some Frittilaries which don’t even lay their eggs on the caterpillar foodplant!

  217. Charla Says:

    I guess the mother of my caterpillars wasn’t so smart since she laid almost 30 eggs on parsley plants that had only a few leaves and mainly stem, flowers, and seeds. I had to stop her when she came back several days later since I can’t afford anymore parsley, and since I have to drive so far to get it. I guess she had no choice. They wouldn’t have survived w/o human aid. I would let them lay more eggs if i had the money to support them, haha. I got a bonus when I bought parsley Fri.-a 2nd instar caterpillar. Luckily, none of the others ate her. I had to buy 6 plants bc they were all small and dwindling. All of my cats preferred to pupate on the wire except for one on a branch. I have one green chrysalis bc he’s right next to the parsley. I made my husband throw out the rotten caterpillar. :(

    Has anyone ever tried using rue, carrot tops, or celery. I tried organic celery with leaves in tact, but only 2 of the cats ate it.

    Gaby, How long have you been raising butterflies? What type of glue did you use? What is this community garden you speak of? Is it a neighborhood thing that everone can help themselves to? I’ve seen a few black swallow tails around my house, along with other types of swallowtail butterflies. Where do you live?

    Tallulah, what other types of plants do you have in your butterfly garden. If you have flowers of the same color or color range, it’s supposed to be more effective in attracting butterflies since it stands out more. Also, some like a spot to suck out nutrients from wet sand or dirt. I saw a pipevine swallowtail sucking away underneath my water spicket yesterday. This website may be helpful:

  218. EPSILONature Says:

    I just noticed that yesterday was the one-year birthday of this blog. We’re all a year older! HAppy birthday ev’rybody!!


  219. Tallulah Says:

    Do BST have any favorite nectar plants?

  220. Tallulah Says:

    And thanks for the advice, everyone!!!

  221. Charla Says:

    Tallulah, did you check out that site I posted? They have a list of nectar plants for all butterflies. And to get more specific for just black swallowtails: thistle, phlox, butterfly weed, clover.

  222. Carole Says:

    Today I noticed a black swallowtail larva on a bouquet of Queen Anne’s Lace I brought in the house yesterday. I’m wondering what I can do to keep in alive to chrysalis and butterfly so that my kids can witness the miraculous transformation.

    Just found your site and will devour all I can.

    Thanks for any help in advance

  223. EPSILONature Says:

    I think i remember reading somewhere before that they like low growing clover-like flowers, Charla did say clover was one.


  224. Charla Says:

    I’m pretty sure that they like zinnias too. A lot of the pictures of them on the internet, they are on zinnias.

    I’m amazed by my newest caterpillar that I got last Fri. evening as a 2nd instar. He’s already a 5th instar! He developed extremely fast. None of my other caterpillars grew that fast.

    Today would have been about the time that my missing caterpillars would have turned into butterflies, so I’ve been keeping an eye out. I’ve already seen 4 around where I kept them! Unless it’s the same one that keeps coming back, but I don’t usually see them that often. One landed on my scabiosa, but didn’t seem to like it too much. The guy at the nursery told me that it was a good butterfly plant, but so far it only seems to attract skippers and bees.

    Basically, you just need to keep feeding it fresh Queen Ann’s lace. I think they do better outside b/c you don’t have to worry about correct temperatures and mold growing. If you keep it outside, you’ll need to keep it enclosed b/c they will wander off (especially in 5th instar), or get eaten. Once, they’ve reached 5th instar, make sure they have something to pupate on. Most of mine turned into chrysalises on my cage.

  225. kali venable Says:

    I found a black caterpillar that has 2 yellow stripes and a red looking head but not spikey its velvety dont know what type it is. I put it in a cage hopeing it would turn in to a butterfly but i dont know please help me…

  226. GABY Says:


    Make sure that your Queen Anne’s lace plants are kept in water to stay fresh for a couple of days. You’ll have to replace the plants every 2-3 days. Keep the plant in a plastic bottle with a tight neck so the caterpillar won’t fall into water.

    Keep inside if you don’t want the caterpillar eaten by a predator.

    I keep mine outside in a mesh habitat.

  227. GABY Says:


    A community garden is something our park district does–it leases small parcels of land to hobby gardeners for a small annual fee. The plants and veggies are not something you can help yourself of–it belongs to the gardeners. I depend on their kindness to let me snip off soime dill every now & then.

    This is my first year of raising BSTs. It’s been very enjoyable.

    The glue I used is a German glue called “UHU”. It’s clear and very viscous so it holds very well while drying.

  228. EPSILONature Says:

    Can you send me a picture?

  229. Charla Says:

    A community garden sounds really cool. I wish we had something like that here. Have you had any butterflies hatch yet?

  230. Charla Says:

    kali venable,
    What plant did you find the caterpillar on? Most of the time you can figure out what it is by it’s host plant b/c they only eat that certain plant.
    If you go to the bottom of this site, they will list host plants and the caterpillar/butterfly that feeds on them.

    Good luck!

  231. EPSILONature Says:

    yeah, i agree with Charla, tell us and i might be able to tell you.

  232. Renee Says:

    Hey everyone, one of our BST’s hatched!!! My daughters and I were amazed to wake up this morning and see it strugging out of it’s chrysallis. We let it go once all it’s wings were straightened out. We have 3 more chrysallis and about 8 cats to go. They have devoured all my dill and fennel and are quickly working their way through the parsley. I hope I have enough to keep them happy! Next year I will plant some herbs in the open for the BST’s and some under some netting for me to actually use in my cooking!! But it has been a wonderful learning experience for me and my 5 and 3 year old. Thanks for all your info, it has been very helpful. We sent away for Painted Lady cats and I think they should arrive next week, we are hooked!!

  233. GABY Says:


    Yes–I have a butterfly hatch about twice a week. I have 9 chrysalises to go.

    And I found a brand-new egg on parsley, so I potted the parsley and wait for the caterpillar. This will be one to pupate in fall and come out next year.


  234. EPSILONature Says:

    How do you find eggs? I always thought they were too smalll to really notice.

  235. GABY Says:


    Just plant the following in sporing:

    Fennel (preferred because it has good foliage)

    If you have BSTs in your area, you will find eggs in May/June.

    They’re whitish-yellowish, tiny (1 mm), round, and are “glued” individually on the foliage. There may be only 2-4 eggs on one plant, otherwise the plant could not support more caterpillars.

  236. Barbara Says:

    This is my first time raising BSTs. (I’ve cared for Monarchs many times.) I purchased a single parsley plant and kept it in a pot on my deck. About one week ago, I discovered six tiny BST cats on it. At this point in the year, is it likely that these will spend the winter as pupae? We are in Massachusetts. Thanks!

  237. EPSILONature Says:


    Your going to need to buy more plants, six on ONE parsley?!?! My four ate four dill plants! I hope you aren’t planning on cooking with any parsley any time soon!

    Best of luck, (not lick!)

  238. Charla Says:

    Yay! Congrats Renee!
    One of my butterflies hatched this morning. He’s still drying his wings out, and he’s soo beautiful! He crawled around all over me. It is a male, and it took 10 days. So now i have 5 more chrysalises and one that is pupating.
    Covering up some parsley for myself is a good idea. I went through about 9 small parsley plants, but luckily they’re still sprouting, so looks like i might have a lot of parsley now.
    The eggs are pretty easy to spot out, especially when there are so many on one plant. But I guess most butterflies space them out.

  239. Charla Says:

    He practiced flying from tree to tree, landed on me, and then he finally took off. Haha, I felt like I gave birth and my baby is gone. Haha!

  240. EPSILONature Says:



  241. Tallulah Says:

    Renee, are you Renee Giro???

    If you’re not, I know a Renee with a 5 year old and 3 year olt triplets.



  242. Tallulah Says:

    kali venable,

    OMG!!! did it kinda have a big thorax (wide part in front of its head)??? If so, I think I saw the same cat as you!!!!!!! I don’t know wha it is either. :(:(:(

  243. Tallulah Says:

    ^old* oops!!

  244. GABY Says:


    Hi Guys, I need help. One of my BSTs decided to hatch, but I can’t release it for at least one day because it’s raining cats & dogs outside, and it’s windy and cool.

    Does anyone know whether I need to feed it something or whether it will be ok? I mean, in nature, when it pours rain, they probably are in some sort of shelter anyway, right?

    Any ideas??


  245. James & the boys & girl Says:

    Hey All,

    My boys and daughter & I have been raising and releasing Swallowtail and Monarch all summer! Giving some to neighbors to watch emerge! What great fun!

  246. GABY Says:


    I have one parsley plant with one egg on it. The plant’s medium size and I expect it can nourish one or two cats. It’s in an enclosure so no predators can get to it.

    If you have your plant outside unprotected, you will see tha nature will “take care” of the excess cats. With any luck you may even have one survive.

    So, take them in or put them in a mesh butterfly habitat outside.

    You will have then supplant their food with Queen Anne’s lace, fennel, dill etc., or parsley.

  247. Charla Says:

    Another butterfly hatched today! I also had the joy of photographing a Red-Spotted Purple butterfly. He kept landing on me and my camera and sucking out whatever. I let the hose run so he could suck out the nutrients. I guess he likes me cuz he keeps coming around and landing on me.
    In the meantime my butterfly flew off into the woods.

    Gaby, did u take care of your butterfly? I think you can feed it nectar water like with humming birds, but soak it up with a cottonball. Mine didn’t want to eat when they first hatched, I guess they didn’t like my flowers.

  248. Valerie Says:

    I haven’t had time to read all theposts but I saw one from early August that asked about plants-I have a BST pupa that I now believe will overwinter (I’m outside of Syracuse, NY) and I found the cat on a lovage plant and that is what it ate until it changed. I’m looking forward to finding out more about the butterfly/caterpillars. Thank you for sharing! Valerie

  249. StacyLula Says:

    Well kids, I’m happy to say I hatched my last crysalis! That means I hatched 45 monarch butterflies this year! Most of them I raised from eggs. All my children left the nest! Thanks for all of your help and advise through my piller and butterfly issues!!!

  250. EPSILONature Says:

    My neighbors yard used to have a large evergreen tree infested with bagworms, until they recently cut it down. A week ago, i found a little one on one of our smaller porch-sized trees. I put it in a small container with some foliage and forgot about it for a week. I found it again this morning and wow! It nearly doubled in size and only ate half the branch i put in there. Male adults live for a little while, looking for females, who are born without wings! and then lay eggs in their old house/cocoon and then die. Talk about low maintanence! I wish i had saved some from next door. . .

  251. EPSILONature Says:

    My neighbors yard used to have a large evergreen tree infested with bagworms, until they recently cut it down. A week ago, i found a little one on one of our smaller porch-sized trees. I put it in a small container with some foliage and forgot about it for a week. I found it again this morning and wow! It nearly doubled in size and only ate half the branch i put in there. Male adults live for a little while, looking for females, who are born without wings! and then lay eggs in their old house/cocoon and then die. Talk about low maintanence! I wish i had saved some from next door. . .


  252. EPSILONature Says:

    Why does it keep doubling everything i say? It’s done it before, i guess it just thinks i’m twice as important, :):):):):):):) !

  253. StacyLula Says:

    There ya go. Makes us read it twice!

  254. Gretchen Says:

    Happy Birthday, Amy!!!

    Thanks for your support a while back, Butterfly People. Today our Amy HATCHED, as a beautiful female Anise Swallowtail butterfly (not a Black Swallowtail as I’d imagined). That fuzz at her head and tail was, I guess, just how Anise Swallowtails affix themselves to things, and our happy, healthy baby has now flown the coop.

    Thanks again!

  255. Laura Says:

    I found this website while researching BST cats on the internet and it has been very helpful. My kids found 10 cats on our neighbor’s parsley the other day and we gave 7 to my daughter’s teacher and have kept 3. They seem to be doing well in the container I put them in with their parsley and sticks and one has already entered the pupa stage. I noticed it “cleaning it’s guts” yesterday and then watched it as it wandered around looking for a place to hang out. It finally settled on a stick and very late last night I noticed it spinning it’s girdle that supports it’s midsection. Since then it has just been sort of hanging there and I was wondering if anyone could tell me how long it will be before it sheds it’s final skin and becomes a chrysalis. I’m hoping I won’t have to winter them over because a couple winters ago I tried to winter over a wooly bear without success. BST’s make such beautiful butterflies and we are hoping to see them hatch out yet this fall. We’re in central Wisconsin and for right now it’s still nice here. I’d really appreciate any feedback anyone could give me on raising these since it’s our first time. Thanks!!

  256. bev Says:

    Laura – I’ve seen it take a day or so for the caterpillar to become a chrysalis. It is not a brief, dramatic transformation as is the case with Monarch butterflies. As for when it will eclose – I would think any caterpillar that makes a chrysalis now (especially in Wisconsin), will not eclose until spring. While you could keep it indoors, it will probably eclose far too early in the season to survive outdoors. The best thing to do is to put the chrysalis outside or in a screened area outdoors so that it can experience normal outdoor winter and spring temperatures. A couple of people who left comments on my blog mentioned putting them in the refrigerator, but I’ve never tried this.

  257. Laura Says:

    Bev-Thanks for your quick response. When I tried to winter over the wooly bear I kept it in our garage but it was such a cold winter–sometimes reaching 10 below or more–I wasn’t sure if this might be too cold for the caterpillars.

  258. Laura Says:

    Bev–Right now the BST’s that I have are in one of those round type large goldfish bowls with just a piece of screen on top. Would I just leave it the way it is and place it in the garage or would it need to be protected?

  259. bev Says:

    Laura – I live in eastern Ontario, Canada, and the chrysalises would just be out attached to twigs or vegetation in the fields over the winter, so I think they actually very durable. I htink you could put the goldfish bowl in your garage as you’ve described. I don’t think it would really need much extra protection. The main problem with leaving cocoons in places like garages is that sometimes they don’t get checked often enough in spring, the butterflies eclose, and then die because they can’t get out to fly and feed. That’s the only precaution I’d have — to be sure they get checked on frequently, or move them to a place where they can be watched more easily once spring arrives.

  260. Laura Says:

    Bev–Thanks alot for your help. I’ll try what you suggest and hopefully we’ll have butterflies in the spring.

  261. EPSILONature Says:

    WOW!!! While out for a run i found a GIGANTIC caterpillar (12 cm!!) that turned out to be a Regal Moth AKA Royal Walnut Moth AKA Hickory Horned Devil. More updates on this when it actually starts doing something. . .

    I also just released a Monarch that a friend gave to me in chrysalis form, nurtured something that i don’t recognize to pupation, and i’m currently raising a really big and cool looking Bagworm and a couple Tomato Hornworms. Phew!

    ***It’s almost Gulf Frittilary Time!!!***

  262. StacyLula Says:

    Laura- I live in WI as well. Appleton. I’m curious to see how your BST’s do during the winter. I’m new to this as well. I’ve only raised monarchs so far but next summer I plan on planting parsely and dill. Does anyone know if you can overwinter monarchs?

  263. EPSILONature Says:

    Monarchs go down to Mexico for a genration each winter. . .

  264. StacyLula Says:

    Laura- I’m from WI as well. Appleton. I’m curious to see how your BST’s will do this winter. I have only raised monarchs so far but I plan on planting dill and parsely next summer. Does any one know if you can overwinter monarchs?

  265. StacyLula Says:

    Your right. I forgot.

  266. StacyLula Says:

    This thing is slow to post. Then I think it didn’t receive my message and then I type a new one and that posts immediatly.

  267. EPSILONature Says:

    I think that’s what happened in my 8/25 posting.

  268. Laura Says:

    Well we now successfully have 2 chrysalises–one of which me and my daughter watched molt it’s final skin this morning and emerge as a chrysalis–what an amazing sight!!! I do have another question for anyone who might know. We’ve had warm weather here lately and if the butterflies do decide to emerge rather than wintering over I don’t think I have enough room in the container they are in to comfortable expand their wings. What I would like to know is can the sticks that they are on be moved to another location? I was thinking of making a larger enclosure for them but I am afraid to move the sticks if the chrysalises are too fragile. Thanks for any help. Laura

  269. EPSILONature Says:

    No, the chrysalis’ won’t be bothered if you move the stick they are on, i have to do it all the time.

    My Hickory Horned Devil died :( :(

  270. cwalsh Says:

    I have been watching several swallowtail caterpillars feed on my parsley, most have disappeared or died for some unknown reason, but one made it for a few weeks. I found it on the ground with its middle black and swollen, I think trying to pupate. I tried to pick it up with a stick, and it tried to attach itself but eventually fell. What should I do? Will ti be alright on the bottom of my planter?

  271. Barbara Says:

    I wrote a few weeks ago about my six caterpillars found on one parsley plant. They were small then… still in that brown, “bird-dropping look” stage. I found one dying that same day. The others kept eating and growing, supplemented with grocery store parsley. Two became full grown and wandered off to pupate before I made an enclosure. Two more made their chrysalis on sticks and I will keep them over the winter. The last one was very sluggish and he finally died a few days ago.

    In the meantime, I’ve had two monarchs emerge and fly away and I have one more monarch chrysalis. We also found a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar, and he is beginning to pupate tonight. What a treat!

  272. EPSILONature Says:

    wow! i’ve never had that much excitement all at one time before!
    I need to find some time to go down to the elementary school and look at the Passion-Vine there for Gulf Frittilaries. I’ve been waiting for some real cats to raise again.

  273. NOAH EASTON Says:


  274. bev Says:

    Hi Noah,
    Maybe some of the people who have been posting comments to my blog will post a reply here. I have more experience with Monarch than with Black Swallowtails. However, what I can tell you is that my Black Swallowtail cats seemed to like to attach themselves to the same pieces of metal screen that I use for Monarchs. I just left squares of screen on their containers and they crawled up and fastened themselves to the screen. That could then be placed in a safe place to overwinter. Hope that’s some help. –bev

  275. EPSILONature Says:

    They are crazy, that just means they’re ready to pupate, the will wander around a couple days and then pick a spot.

  276. st Says:

    I am in Pennsylvania and the weather went from 80 to 50 degrees overnight. I have a swallowtail caterpillar that has nestled (picked a spot)under the roof on my deck. He is just kicking it and has not made its cocoon so does this mean he didn’t make it in time for the colder weather (October 25th). It has been 2 days and he is just staying put? Also I did find one that made its cocoon and it is definatley partially exposed to the elements (snow,rain, etc.) Do I just leave it there or try to move it??


  277. Tallulah Says:

    Holy moly did I have the best morning ever!

    I’m down in South Florida, and the weather has turned a bit chilly. I was lucky enough to spot a BEAUTIFUL eastern tiger swallowtail dringing out of my bougainvillea. I taped it on my camera (=])! I was just wondering if there are any magical plants that dont grow TOO big, perhaps the size of a cassia tree or something, that I could plant to keep the ETS over here. Do they have a favorite nectar plant/larval host plant??? I am SOOOOO pumped with adrenaline– I have never sen one before!!! Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thanks you guys!

  278. Tallulah Says:

    Holy Moly did I have the best morning ever!

    I’m down in South Florida, and the weather has turned a bit chilly. I was lucky enough to spot a BEAUTIFUL eastern tiger swallowtail drinking out of my bougainvillea. I taped it on my camera (=])! I was just wondering if there are any magical plants that don’t grow TOO big, perhaps the size of a cassia tree or something, that I could plant to keep the ETS over here. Do they have a favorite nectar plant/larval host plant??? I am SOOOOO pumped with adrenaline– I have never sen one before!!! Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thanks you guys!

  279. Charla Says:

    Hello everyone,
    I haven’t been on here in awhile bc I got busy. Half of my chrysalises hatched in August, but 3 of them never hatched. Is that abnormal since half the brood hatched? It was warm enough for them to hatch until a few weeks ago, but yet they never did. A lady that works at a butterfly house at a park told me that they should move inside when you touch the chrysalis, but I’ve read that BST don’t move as much as other butterfly species. They aren’t moldy, so I don’t think they are dead. Maybe they were just lazy…haha.
    Anyway, I’m going to treat them as if they are alive and hope they hatch in the spring. It’s suppose to freeze tonight. I’m pretty sure it’s ok, but just wanted to make sure, does anyone know if it’s ok for them to be outside when it freezes or should I bring them inside. I’ve heard of people putting them in their fridges, but I don’t understand how they wouldn’t suffocate like that. Any advice is appreciated, thanks!

  280. Charla Says:

    Sounds exciting. I had the pleasure of seeing quite a few this summer in SC. I guess it’s still pretty warm in southern Florida for there to still be butterflies. I’ve only seen a couple butterflies a few days ago.

    As far as host plants, the spicebush doesn’t grow over 6ft tall. It seems that all the host plants are humongous trees like Yellow Poplar, Black Willow, Black Cherry, American Hornbeam, Red Maple, American Elm, and Sassafras. I guess they all start out small. But if you want to attract the adult butterflies, they like milkthistle, bull thistle, japanese honeysuckle, ironweed, red clover, spotted joe-pye weed, and black-eyed susan. Different websites say different things, so I’d suggest googling “host plants/nectar plants for easter tiger swallowtail”. Good luck!

  281. Charla Says:

    Another tip to see what flowers they like as adults is to search images of the butterfly and see what flowers they are eating in the photos. I’ve seen them on echinacea purpurea and penta, and like like a lot of the similar flowers that the black swallowtail like.

  282. Lisa N. Says:

    I brought 2 black swallowtail caterpillars into my classroom before the winter. They both formed a chrysalis and we have enjoyed waiting for them to emerge. Today the first one came out but it is too cold to let them go. How do I feed them in my classroom until I can set them free. (Chance of snow this Friday – yikes!)

  283. bev Says:

    Hello Lisa – Here’s some info on feeding butterflies that are indoors. This would only sort of hold things over for awhile. I’m not sure how long a butterfly would survive if it had to be kept indoors for an extended period of time:

  284. Pat Says:

    After our Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly seemed to be stressed in his container, beating his wings to escape and breaking part of one, I want to release him. It is early May and a little cool and very rainy. Will he be able to survive the rain?

  285. bev Says:

    Hi Pat,

    Yes, I think a swallowtail could survive at this point in the spring, at least up here in Ontario.


  286. Pat Says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. We are in Delaware.

  287. Barbara Says:

    I kept two swallowtails over the winter, in the garage, and now have them out on the deck, but they have not emerged. Should they have come out by now? We are in central Massachusetts.

  288. bev Says:

    Hi Barbara — Here in Ontario, I’ve just seen the first Black Swallowtail flying in the fields at my farm, so I suppose that there’s still a good chance that your butterflies will emerge.
    - bev

  289. Karen Says:

    Hi all. I’m new to this .. brought home a BST caterpillar for my daughter to observe. After about a week, it went into a chrysalis last night. Ive been really excited .. but, tonight, it looks really dark – black in parts. I’m worried that is not a good sign. Anyone else have really dark ones that came out ok? I’m going to be sad if it’s dead – so will my daughter.

  290. Charlotte Says:

    yes..I usually go to site for questions on insects..but it wants me to use a different mailing system that never works..outlook express, something like my question is when will my black swallowtail caterpillar emerge into a butterfly..its been over 2 weeks now..I have been keeping a log and journal..I did this last summer when raising 15 Senna Sulfer catapillars. I found the black swallowtail in its last instar stage..because then it started to hang from the top of the bug cage and 2 days later it was a crysalis. Please email me back, the bug cage is in my room, not sure about temperatures are appropreite for it..its not to cold in my room..kinda humid..but also have the A/C turning on ..well off and on throughout the day seeing its so hotoutside. I hope to hear from you soon and I would be more then happy to pst some photos of the catapillar and its crysalized stage right now..along with when it emerges into a butterfly..thankyou very much.

  291. bev Says:

    Hi Chartlotte,
    I’m not sure what part of the country you are from, and when you found the caterpillar, etc… I had a Black Swallowtail chrysalis in my back porch over the winter and the butterfly eclosed last week, so I would think most would emerge around now. – bev

  292. Charlotte Says:

    hi bev, I am in FLorida. I guess I shoulda said where I was from also that would have helped..well its been 3 weeks now. Please write back

  293. Dee Says:


    A few days ago I noticed on the parsley I brought in from the garden i had a caterpillar on it. So I did som looking around on the net and I do think I have a Black Swallowtail and from what I have seen on here it looks just like the first picture of on here. I desided to keep it in hopes it will change in to a butterfly, also so none of the bugs othered it. i put it in a big pretzel jar with sand in the bottom and a lil cup of water for the parsley. It sounds like I am doing a good job. Just wanted to make sure. It keeps eating so I think it’s doing great. Also keeping the jar clean.

  294. Natasha Yi Says:

    Hey!…Man i love reading your blog, interesting posts ! it was a great Wednesday .

  295. louise Says:


    I found a caterpillar around the 9th of June in my kittchen on the parsley i brought in from the garden. I put it in a jar with some parsley and a few sticks also some sand in the bottom. From what i have read online it looks like a black swallowtail. I clean it out every 2 days or every day.

    It’s been ding really well but i noticed the other day it looked a little smaller and does not seem to be eating as much as usuall and is moving around more than it has. I’v never done this before. Could there be something wrong with it or is it getting ready to make a caccoon. Anyone have any ideas?

  296. Laura Says:

    I had three black swallowtail caterpillars last fall and that’s what they did when they were readying to form their chrysallis’. They “empty their guts” which is really gross looking (poop out alot of gooey stuff) then they start walking around like crazy looking for a place to attatch to.

    And by they way–we woke up this morning to see that two of our three butterflies emerged after wintering over in our garage since last September. I had moved their cage out onto our deck about a week ago and my daughter noticed there were two butterflies in it this morning. They are so beautiful. We watched them for a while and one even seemed happy just walking around on our arms until they took flight and left us :( But I have some parsley planted in a pot on our deck so hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to raise some more BSTs over the summer.

  297. Kelly Says:

    My daughter and I found a BST cat on June 19. It ate lots of dill and parsley and was very active. Then we noticed that it had “emptied its guts” and seems to have stopped eating. We put a stick in the container and it crawled onto the stick yesterday evening. Since then not much has happened. It is just hanging upside down, very still. I thought by now we might see the beginning of a chrysallis. How long does it take to move into that stage? Is our caterpillar OK?

  298. louise Says:


    Thanks for writing.
    How long does it take for them to change? And what should they look like while in the stages of changing. It has attached to one of the stems of the parsley and has started changing color, it almost looks like it might have mold on it. I’m thinking that is not good. Hoping very much it is alright.
    I also found another on on the parsley i have in a cup my the kittchen sink and its supper tiny. Pretty neat.

  299. bev Says:

    Hi Kelly,

    They don’t change quickly the way that a monarch caterpillar does. I’ve kept only a few BST cats and they seem to just gradually turn into a chrysalis — at least, that’s how it seems to me. I check on them and they don’t seem to be doing anything and I get busy and next thing I know, I check them again a day or so later, and they’re a chrysalis. Maybe others have watched them closer and will comment.


  300. Kelly Says:

    Hi Bev & Louise,

    Bev — thank you for your response. It seems our cat has started to change already — it is looking a little greenish (kind of moldy, like Louise mentioned) by the head so I am hoping this is the beginning of the chrysallis. From there I have read it takes 10 to 14 days, does that sound right for this time of year? We are so excited about this it’s kind of crazy. I feel like I’m 4 years old too.

  301. Nancy Says:

    HI…I need help……I had 8 eastern blk swallowtails cats, fat and happy..1 has already done the chrysalis thing…1 is attached to the side of its netting and the others were all laying on the bottom of the tent this AM. 2 are definetly dead…the others look pretty bad. A couple look like they exploded inside out.Anyone know whats happening????? I put new dill plants in 2 days ago..wonder if they had been sprayed w/ pesticide maybe?…don’t know. I feel terrible about this. Any info would be appreciated. I’m in FL. and 5 out of the bunch were on the dill I had just bought at Target. So I feel especially bad because they may have had a chance if I’d left them there.

  302. louise Says:


    Anyone know how long till the butterfly comes out? I had one that went on friday I think it was.

  303. Marianne Says:

    First: black swallowtail pillars will only eat the type of plant they hatch on. So, even though they are known to eat parsely, dill, rue, queen anne’s lace, carrots and fennel, if they hatch on dill, they ONLY eat dill, hatch on carrots, they’ll ONLY eat carrots.

    Second: 10 – 14 days to hatch after they pupate, unless they are overwintering (I’m in NH). And, they’ll overwinter just about anywhere. I keep mine in the basement, and my SIL keeps hers in the outdoor shed. Up here, the first round (hatching in early June) will become butterflies this season, but the second round (hatching now) will overwinter.

    Third: the swallowtail does have parasites sometimes, so if you find them when they’re fairly large, there’s a chance they’ve had wasp eggs laid on them. The ones that Nancy said looked like they’d exploded may have had just that happen.

    I’ve raised my fourth years batch of swallowtails this year, and have blogged about it a bit (among other things). Good luck! They are fun to raise.

  304. Nancy Says:

    Thanks Marianne…I’ve had 2 perfect releases and 1 still in the cocoon which should be ready any day.(swallowtails) I had 22 monarchs and 1 queen. Down to 14 now…all is good. Thanks for the info!

  305. cindy Says:

    I feel so guilty now after learning that the cocoons that
    were constantly hanging down at my front door were actually
    these butterflies. I just swept them away from the door
    way as I had no idea what they were. I live in a town
    home and no one else in the neighborhood had these hanging
    from their door. I have flowers and so do others but they
    selecting my door to be hanging down from. My grand daughter
    just freaked when she saw them hanging there as none of us
    knew what they were. If I had known I would of been far
    more careful with them. Since I just lost my husband I’ve
    had some experiences that I’ve never had before and this
    sure is one of them. Butterflies help in healing I’ve
    been told.

  306. jae Says:

    Hi everyone.
    I have 2 Black Swallowtail caterpillars. One did the chrysalis thing 2 days ago, and the 2nd one started the process today. Well I really wanted to document the process, so I got my camera set up to do some time lapse photography. Both cats chose the same stick to attach too and in the process of trying to get the stick to stand up, i accidentally bumped the 1st chrysalis and it dislodged the sling and bent(and tore a bit)the bottom part of the chrysalis. A little bit of yellow ooze came out and now (a few hours later) it looks like a black wound. I’d like to know if anyone has had this happen and what is the likelyhood that it will survive. I feel really bad that this is my fault and I really want it to be ok.
    Thanks so much.

  307. Chelle Says:

    Hello everyone. I have a few questions. My grandmother found some caterpillars on her parsley. She didn’t know what they were, but collected them for me. From some research I have found out they are either Anise Swallowtails or Black Swallowtails. My grandmother thought some of them had died, but those are the ones that have already formed their chrysalis. She put them in a jar with some of the parsley and the ones that have formed their chrysalids already tried to attach to the parsley stems, but then fell off to the bottem of the jar. I have a butterfly pavilion that I want to transfer them to..(a large mesh container that will give them plenty of room to fly in once they emerge) Should I try to hang them from the top or sides of the pavilion or should I just leave them on the floor? Will double stick tape work okay?

    Also, this is my first experience with any cats, other than painted ladies. I live in the south and the cats are one week into being in their chrysalis… will these overwinter or should I expect them in a week or two?

    Thirdly, I have them in my house. Should I keep them outside? Or in a room that isn’t air conditioned? Where is the best and safest place to keep them? Have I harmed them by keeping them in the house? Thanks.

  308. Bev Kirk Says:

    We recently found 8 Black Swallowtail caterpillars on our parsley and 5 on our carrot tops. We didn’t want to move them from their natural environment, so we bought light weight wedding veil material and made hoops to cover the carrots which are in a large container (we have a container garden). We put the parsley under a grated steel table and wrapped it with the veil material as well. No other critters can get to our precious caterpillars! They seem to be doing great, eating the parsley like crazy, and appear to be in the final instar. How much time before the butterfly appears? We assume, we should release them as soon as they are developed since it’s only July. Should we be doing anything else? We have inserted small branches into the potted parsley and carrot tops and we may have to buy more parsley. We read to buy only organic. Do we need to do anything more with the organic parsley to ensure they survive?

  309. Chelle Says:

    I can’t figure out how to get a chrysalis off the ground and hanging again. I tried some double stick tape and tried to attach the tip of the bottom of the chrysalis to some paper so that I could pin the paper to the butterfly pavilion. It didn’t work. I don’t want to hurt it. Any ideas?

  310. Lynn Deardorff Says:

    My granddaughter found a caterpillar,and I cannot identify it.
    Can you possibly help with any info on this.

    The caterpillar was yellow woolly (like a woolly bear) and had long black spines.The spines were sporadicly placed , not in rows or rings.
    This caterpillar was found on the ground under trees mixed with grape vines.I am not sure of the kind of trees.

    Can you please help identify this caterpillar,and possibly what it will turn into ?

    Thank You,
    Lynn Deardorff

  311. Christine Says:

    My daughter was learning about life cycle of lady bugs when we found three caterpillars on the Ruta plant that my landlord has. Her teacher couldn’t believe that we found them and hadn’t bought them. We all thought they were monarch’s. When they hatched, what a time we had trying to figure it out. When we did she was so happy. My husband and I thought they could fly right away. My daughter who is 4 1/2 told us they can’t because their wings are wet. She learned it in school. Who knew. After they all hatched we were all glad that we got to experience this amazing life cycle. We thought we would have to wait till next year for more. To our surprise my daughter and I found one about 3 weeks ago. Then we saw a black swallowtail butterfly come back and lay her eggs. Now we have 10 caterpillars in a critter cage. She feeds them everyday and watches intently. We finally saw one going into his cocoon. It was wild. She has seen them from egg stage all the way to the butterfly stage. It has been a wonderful experience for all of us!

  312. bev Says:

    Christine – Yes, it certainly is a good experience for anyone, but especially for a young person to see. It’s all very fascinating, isn’t it? – bev

  313. Rebecca Says:

    Hi all,

    It has been really cool reading about your experiences with the caterpillars. My question is: earlier in the spring, I found a plant in my back yard that had lots of little black caterpillars with bright yellow dorsal stripes. I combed the internet for some time, trying to find out what they were. I never found anything that met their description. Does anyone have any ideas?

    Thanks for your help!

  314. Rebecca Says:

    Oh, and if it helps — I live in Wisconsin (Milwaukee)

  315. bev Says:

    Hi Rebecca, I can’t say I would know offhand. I should mention that if the caterpillars were small, they may have been early instars. Most caterpillars go through about 5 molts and they often look very different during each phase. It’s difficult just figuring out what the final instars are, but when you are trying to ID earlier instars, it gets very difficult. A good website to use for identifying caterpillars is the Caterpillars of the Eastern Forests site. You’ll just have to look through galleries for the various families and try to find a match.

  316. Ashawnte Says:

    I have a couple swallowtails in chrysalis,and I want to overwinter them.What temp is best to store them?

  317. Charla Says:

    Ashawnte, I over wintered mine last year outside because it was cool, but then they started falling off so I had to pin them to cardboard through the little thread they make and I stuck them in the refrigerator. Every now and then I would take them out because I wanted to give them fresh air. I left them out and one ended up hatching too early. So keep them in the frige until next spring when there are enough flowers in bloom. If the chrysalis have already turned translucent then it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to over winter them because they are about to hatch.

  318. Charla Says:

    I have a HUGE problem. For some reason these butterflies like to bless (or torment me) too late in the season, here in SC. They ate up all the parsley that I have. I called and checked every nursery in town and can’t find a single parsley, or dill plant anywhere! I checked the groceries stores for organic dill and Wal-mart was the only one that had it but it had been packed 11 days previous, so I was weary to give it to them even though it still looked good, but I had no choice. Well, they ate it, but I think it ended up making them sick. I had 22 after the others wandered off, now half of them are dying, slowly. They just lay there on their side and twitch every now and then. I’m trying to separate the good and bad, but I don’t have a good cage system. And yet, I still have the food issue for the ones that are left. I just don’t know what to do, and I feel like giving up, but it makes me so sad to see them die. ERRRR!

  319. Charla Says:

    Well, I separated the ones that were still moving from the ones that were laying on their sides. Some of them are hanging upside down, which is pretty weird. They didn’t do that last year. One of them fell off because he was only hanging on by his hind suckers. The smart caterpillars decided that they didn’t want to starve and started eating the tough parsley stems and brown dried up parsley leaves. To my surprise, this morning I looked into the container of “dying” caterpillars that are laying on their sides, and one of them actually turned into a chrysalis without hanging onto anything. This is very strange to me. Some of the others on their sides look like their are in the pupating form with their bodies curved. I wonder if they will change too? Another weird observation was that the “dying” ones had an bunch of silky threads stuck to them, I wonder if they were trying to attach their string around something, but couldn’t while lying on the ground before I removed them. Now I just got to figure out how to fasten the chrysalis without the string they usually make. I know you can put a tiny bit of super glue on the bottom of the chrysalis, which I did last year. Maybe I can string some thread through cardboard to wrap around the upper part.

  320. Chris Cude Says:

    I just found about 10 eggs on my parsley outside. I have been raising them all summer, but I’m not sure if it’s now too late. I live in the DFW area, and it’s around 80 during the day and 55 at night. My last batch that I raised, one of them stayed in its chrysalis. I’m wondering if it is over-wintering or just dead. I have it inside where it’s warm.

    I have a friend that was hoping to raise some and we had a mishap with the last batch I collected for her.

    Is it too late? She’s worried that she’ll release them as butterflies and they’ll die at this point in the year.

    What do you guys think? Thanks!!

  321. Jennifer Says:

    I have a similar issue with not knowing if my six little chrysalids will make it thru the winter or hatch soon. I’m in St. Louis and it is still pretty warm here in the daytime, but it often cools off fast. If these do hatch and I release them, I’m not sure their batch of eggs would make it through to cocoon before winter. I know there are usually two flights so I’m guessing this is the second? I have them in a pretty large butterfly enclosure on big sticks so putting them in the fridge would be really tricky. I have them outside now but it’s still pretty warm. If it cools and they haven’t hatched I was thinking of keeping them in the garage for the winter. I guess I am thinking if I had left them on the parsely plant (not an option, my neighbor was going to exterminate) they would be in the same conditions, so whatever’s going to happen is what would have been natural to them, but I still don’t want them to die… anyone have any thoughts?

  322. kelli Says:

    Hi have a tigar swallowtail cat and it is in the chrysalis stage! i am very excited I actually thought he was dead. Anyways, I was wondering how I should go about this-I read that if they go into the Pupa stage in the fall then they will not emerge until winter, but if this cat is in a warm house,will it emerge earlier? Or do I have to worry about that? Should I stick my jar outside? Not sure what to do? anyone have any thoughts on what I should do? Thanks

  323. Bev Basham Says:

    Hi – I have 7 Black Swallowtail cats and 3 chrysalis.Today when I was adding more Fennel to their enclosure I bumped the first chrysalis and it broke. Just a small piece like maybe 1/4 inch was left on the stick and the rest was on the ground. I picked it up and placed it between the stick and a large leaf to keep it off of the wet ground. Do you think there is a chance it might still hatch? I have placed some fennel in a big childs toy bucket and enclosed it with netting. I had to get really crazy with clothespins because when they are done eating they really want to wander and they were escaping. We feed birds so I was afraid they would be lunch. I also have 7 Monarch chrysalis that should start hatching any day now.

  324. grace robinson Says:

    do you know anything about these fuzzy black caterpillars that have a brownish-red stripes on there head and back end?

  325. dave Says:

    Hi have a tigar swallowtail cat and it is in the chrysalis stage! i am very excited I actually thought he was dead. Anyways, I was wondering how I should go about this-I read that if they go into the Pupa stage in the fall then they will not emerge until winter, but if this cat is in a warm house,will it emerge earlier? Or do I have to worry about that? Should I stick my jar outside? Not sure what to do? anyone have any thoughts on what I should do? Thanks

  326. Cindy Says:

    The other day we found a few tiger swallowtail caterpillars we brought them inside because up here in canada the temp is about to start freezing. Well my daughter took one of them to her school and thoe other kept at home. After a few days the caterpillars went into the chrysalis stage. Should i get it outside so it doesnt hatch and turn into a butterfly. Because up here it gets cold so there no chance of survival. Its in its second day of crysalis so can i leave it in the fridge or freezer during winter or would it be better to leave it outside in a jar.

  327. becca Says:

    I have been taking care of a tiger swallow cocoon for about a month and it has now got black furry patches growing on it. Is it glowing mold?

  328. sara Says:

    I came upon this to site to contact Amy, but I love the caterpillars! We have anise swallowtails where I live. For my 3rd-grade class we watch them mature from egg to adult, then set them free. One year, we had a couple of pupas not hatch. They went into my garage for storage (well, I just left them in the jar that I store over the winter); lo and behold, the following spring my husband happens to notice that there’s a butterfly that had just emerged! It had wintered over, and was thankfully released safely.

    Amy–I’m from FF and have been trying to track you down. We started a splinter group BB. Please contact me to join:

  329. carol Says:

    My 10 year old so has a stong interest in gardening and critterrs. We just finished up botony this year in science and next year we will do flying creatures including butterflies. My husband wanted me to put in some plants behind our patio, My son and I designed and put in a 35 by 4 foot butterfly garden with all the right host and nectar plants. To date we have regular visits from monarchs and gulf fritillary. We have occasional visits from black swallowtails. we are still waiting for long winged zebras. Any suggest on how to get one in my garden.

    THe other problem I am having is wasps. At any given time I used to have about 15 to 20 monarch caterpillars. The wasps hunt vigilantly for the monarchs and now I can only find a few. I have succumb to moving the caterpillars to host plants inside the patio. THere has got to be a better way. Does anybody have any advice.

  330. Amanda Says:

    Hi all,
    I have Black Swallowtails in my parsley (well, what’ left of it), and they are all fat and starting to go to cocoon. One of the caterpillars had fallen just before going into the chrysalis stage. But I propped him up a bit and was amazed to actually get to watch him turn completely into his chrysalis. A loop-like strand of his silk remains, but he is unattached to a stick, like the other chrysalis I have in my garden. Right now I have him hanging by his silk, but he is upside-down and not at all positioned like the other chrysalis, who is very well-attached to a parsly stick. My question is, do I leave the dangling chrysalis alone, or should I attempt to glue him into the correct position. I am worried I’ve messed with him so much today, he may not make it. I don’t want to cause him anymore stress, but I want to give him the best chance.

    Any suggestions? I can post pics if needed.

  331. schrodie Says:

    Hi Amanda,

    NO! Don’t glue the loose end of a Swallowtail chrysalis to anything! The loose end needs to be free.

    Now, it helps to picture how the chrysalis usually sits, and to understand how this all works. Just before the caterpillar finally pupates, it makes a little silk button to which it secures itself by its “vent”, to use a delicate term. It then spins a silk safety strap around its midsection, which secures the caterpillar to the plant stem (or fence, or wherever it decides to pupate). While the silk hardens, the caterpillar “rests” for up to 24 hours. During this time, it will rest its head against the pupating surface (stem, etc.). The head is NOT attached to the surface at all, but only rests there for a time. The resting shape sort of looks like a letter “C”.

    After a time, the skin loosens and the silk reaches peak strength. Now the caterpillar begins to lean backwards into the silk safety strap, looking sort of like an electrician up on a power pole. If the caterpillar “did the deed” on a vertical surface, this will look quite obvious. If the caterpillar pupates on the underside of a roof, a branch, etc., the caterpillar would hang down slightly.

    Soon, the caterpillar begins to wriggle and squirm, and the skin splits starting at the head and working down the back with repeated “gyrations”. It sort of looks like a plump lady wriggling out of a girdle. Finally, the skin makes its way to the tip of the caterpillar’s “butt”, and with a good “kick” the caterpillar knocks it away.

    Now underneath is something about the color of a lima bean and the consistency of mush. But over the next several hours, the new chrysalis hardens. It may stay green, or it may turn bark brown. Sometimes, where the caterpillar decided to roost will determine what color the shell will be– sort of like a chameleon. But the hardened chrysalis stays in that “line man” position. That “unattached” look is perfectly normal, and it works to the new butterfly’s advantage when “she” emerges. The shell serves as a “stepladder” and/or something for the new butterfly to hang on while the wings fill with body fluid and straighten out (they do NOT “dry off”!)

    Do NOT glue or otherwise secure the loose end of a Swallowtail chrysalis! However, if the safety belt breaks, it’s possible to make a new one with dental or embroidery floss

  332. schrodie Says:

    Oh, for you folks who are worried that your chrysalides are taking a LONG time to open and for the new Swallowtails to appear– BE PATIENT. I’ve rasied Swallowtails for years and I know how tough it can be sometimes, witing for those butterflies to appear.

    Swallowtails can sometimes take a very long time to emerge. Some will open in a week to 10 days, but others can go a year or longer. I actually had one that took 18 months, and a friend had one that took 2 years. Both new butterflies were absolutely perfect. And, it’s perfectly normal.

    I know that seems like an awfully long time to wait– but breathe easy. Most of my early and mid-season groups opened in the usual few weeks, but the later ones did need at least the winter before they did their thing. My theory is that long pupa times are a way to preserve the genes, and ensure genetic diversity among future generations. Nature has ways to see that these creatures will be around for our grandkids’ grandkids to enjoy.

    Yes, as long as the chrysalis isn’t moldy and as long as it moves occasionally when you disturb it, it’s still alive. Don’t give up if your butterfly seems to be slow. Hang in there; check on it daily in case you have a pleasant surprise; check that it doesn’t get too dry (mist the air around the chrysalis occasionally in very dry weather, NOT the chrysalis itself); and hang in there.

  333. Carol Says:

    Thank goodness for the last few posts. I was growing weary with the misinformation of the earlier ones. One of the things that was bothering me is that it was recommended to feed a black swallowtail caterpillar with something other than that which it was found eating. These caterpillars eat a variety of plants as a group, but according to research (and my own personal experience raising black swallowtails) these caterpillars must be fed on the specific plant they have been found eating in the wild. Meaning…if you find a caterpillar eating dill in your garden, don’t take it home and give it parsley. If you provide the host plant at home, it should be a living one or else you’ll have to replace the food source every hour or two hours. Don’t put plant stems in a jar of water because caterpillars have a tendency to fall and drown in jars. Also, the chrysalis is colored according to what the caterpillar chooses for her/his “transformation” site. Green or brown are his/her only choices. We’ve had one who attached to our white window sill and that one was green! Also, caterpillars do not build the chrysalis on their food source. That would provide a varitable buffet for the birds, etc. They find a different place. This is why the caterpillars described by other people as leaving the food source do so (if they are about 1.25-1.50 inches long). So putting them back on the food source undermines the process the caterpillar has been working so intently toward accomplishing. If the caterpillar is not this big, he’s probably hungry and seeking the correct food source. My question is…how do you know if the caterpillar will need to be overwintered? Does the time of year the chrysalis is formed have anything to do with this or is it simply a waiting and guessing game? I’ve never had one this late in the season and we now have two.

  334. bev Says:

    Carol – You didn’t say where you’re from, but up here, I’ve seen Black Swallowtail cats this late in the summer. I think that any that make a chrysalis this late in the season will now have to overwinter. Up here in my area, i”ve just left the chrysalis outside in my back porch in a safe area and the butterfly successfully eclosed in the spring. The one and only time I kept a chrysalis in the house over the winter, the butterfly eclosed far too early — well before there were flowers to feed on, etc.. so I would not do that again. Most that I’ve ever found here at my farm are on Queen Anne’s Lace, and that’s what I feed them as it is abundant around my gardens. I have found them on Dill in the garden once, but I just let them stay there taking their chances with predators.

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