The Black Swallowtail is a beautiful butterfly that is a frequent visitor to gardens especially if you are growing the herbs parsley, dill, or fennel. They have gregarious caterpillars that can munch down a parsley plant before you get the chance harvest it, but the way I see it is that by sacrificing parsley, you are helping nature. The rule of thump is to plant a lot! I went to a plant stand and bought two pots of parsley, but I was able to multiply those plants into 8 because there were 4 plants in each pot. That is a tip for plant buying. Sometimes there are more than one plant in a pot and you can just divide it to make more.
At 11 days old, my first Black Swallowtail caterpillar was ready to make its chrysalis. They can crawl several feet from the plant in search of a place to pupate. I had four caterpillars that I raised inside my pavilion. One caterpillar lived half of its life out in my garden box. They are more susceptible to predators and disease if left outside so the other three I raised in my pavilion since they were eggs. I took pictures of each one to document them.
When the Black Swallowtail has found its pupation place, it will attach its hind legs to a plant with silk and then put a strand of silk around its waist.
Black Swallowtail chrysalises can be dark brown, light brown, or green. If the surroundings are dark colors they will make brown chrysalises and if the leaves were green, the chrysalises will be green. They can over winter in the chrysalis which is called diapause. I’ve had them stay in their chrysalis for 6 months or more!
Documentation of Caterpillars
The first caterpillar I showed at the beginning, started to wander in search of a place to make its chrysalis. The first clue that something was wrong was that the caterpillar did not make a silk girdle around itself. That caused it to hang straight down. The picture below shows the correct position.
The next day I examined the chrysalis and discovered that it was squishy. The caterpillar inside died. It was very upsetting to have to dispose of it after caring for it and raising it, but that is the cycle of nature. Bacteria is a threat to raising butterflies in nature or captivity.
My second caterpillar made its chrysalis on the parsley plant. First it attached its rear end to the stem. Then it spun a thin silk strand with its mouth and wrapped it around its midsection. The silk is so thin that is hard to see in the picture.
Look how well the chrysalis matches the parsley leaves! This provides camouflage and protection from predators. If you bother the chrysalis it will start to move! While I was taping the pupae to a stick it started to wiggle. You only imagine how surprised I was!
My third caterpillar made its chrysalis on the pavilion.
This is the last caterpillar in my pavilion. I found it eating outside in my garden box. I decided to take it in for fear a wasp might eat it. So now you’ve learned that if you see these caterpillars and think they are pests they are actually butterflies. Keep them in a protective cage and you will be able to see them turn into a butterfly!
You can purchase my book to learn how to raise butterflies, butterfly life cycles, butterfly conservatory tours, as well as discovery pages. It is a great resource for teachers. https://www.createspace.com/4083202