Monday, June 15, 2009

My black swallowtail made its chrysalis

 

black swallowtail

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.

black swallowtail 11 days old (resized)

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.

 095-Black Swallowtail hanging (resized)

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.

chrysalis black swallowtail

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

caterpillar 1 caterpillar 1-1

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.

Black swallowtail 2 preparing for chrysalis

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.

IMG_0524

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!

caterpillar 3-2

My third caterpillar made its chrysalis on the pavilion.

caterpillar 4

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!

Butterfly Book Cover

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

56 comments:

  1. I'm real happy to have come across your site.
    I had 3 Black Swallowtail caterpillars, one very small one * shed twice*, and 2 larger ones, probably 4th or 5th instar stages.

    Yesterday, one of the larger ones was walking around the containger that houses the parsley on my deck. Today, he was gone. I wonder if he made his chrysalis in the parsley and I missed it?

    Later this afternoon, the little one (black and white) was gone but I found him on the driveway. I put him back on the parsley plant and he's still there now at 7:19pm.

    I'm going to search your site to see if there is a way for me to contact you through email, I'd love to show you photos and maybe you could give me some tips.

    again, great job on your caterpillars, very informative!

    Dee

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  2. I raise monarchs and this is my first time raising swallowtails. Hopefully no wasps got them.

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  3. I have two swallowtails, a younger black one and one that made the silk thread about 5 hours ago at 7:32 pm. How long until it molts and creates a chrysalis? Abd how long till it hatches

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    1. They usually hang for a day before molting for the last time. They can stay in the chrysalis 10 - 14 days or they overwinter.

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  4. I have a caterpillar that I raised in a jar. when I woke up he wasn't moving so i put him in the sunshine and he's recovering a little bit. what's his problem? any advice i can use?

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    1. A word of advice. Be careful to not place the caterpillar in direct sunlight especially if it is a glass jar. If the caterpillar is very large it could be that it is getting close to making a chrysalis.

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  5. my caterpillar needs help... its alive but barely moving... i've fed it parsley, carrots, and dill.. it was fine last night. any tips?

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    1. How big is the caterpillar? It could be that the caterpillar is nearing the chrysalis stage.

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  6. We currently have 3 swallowtails in their chrysalis, & two more in their 4th or 5th instar. We placed them in a habitat when we found them, as they had completely wiped out the parsley in my garden. Bought more parsley, & have continued to feed them :-) Very exciting to watch!

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    1. Thanks for sharing. I agree. I love watching them emerge!

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  7. I have one swallowtail caterpillar who just made his chrysalis last night. How long will it take for it to come out as a butterfly?

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    1. 8 - 12 days in the summer. In the winter a Black Swallowtail can stay in its chrysalis the whole winter.

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  8. I have several swallowtail catterpillars. 2 just formed chrysalses the others are right behind them. Its mid August n I live in the north east where winter can come quickly. Should I attempt to hybernate them or will they do that on their own if they are born this late in the season can they live through winter

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    1. Great question! I've raised Black Swallowtails in the fall and they stayed in their chrysalises all winter. I've had them stay inside up to 6 months. A sad, but true story was I waited all those months only to have a wasp emerge! One of those butterfly horror stories. Anyway, if you keep them outside in a protected area that should trigger them to either hibernate or emerge to lay one more generation. Indoors could artificially make them think it was still summer depending on the temperature plus the air conditioning could dehydrate them. Wish you the best of luck! You can get more butterfly raising tips in my book. https://www.createspace.com/4083202

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  9. I have an important question so I have 4 caterpillars that have been in a chrysalis since June 12th. The first on was on June 8th. The chrysalises are all dark brown they all seemed very healthy and ate as much food as possible lol. I kept them Outside under a huge umbrella with no direct sunlight. I live in Florida and the weather here is very hot in June. I wasn't sure when they are supposed to emerge. Because I am getting worried. Also when I touch them the chrysalises don't move. I've moved them inside where it is about 78 degrees. Do you have any advise on what to do.

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    1. I live in North Carolina now, but when I lived in Florida during the summer, they usually emerged in 2 weeks or less. Black Swallowtails can be odd when it comes to the length of staying in the chrysalis. I've had them stay in chrysalis form for more than 6 month, but that was during the winter. It concerns me that the abdomen does not move when you touch it. It should move slightly and then go back into place. Is it squishy? That could be bacteria which breeds in Florida humidity. Did you raise them in a protected container the entire duration of their caterpillar life? The air conditioning could dehydrate them which a live plant or misting with water could solve. You will find this article immensely helpful. Please message me if you have further questions. http://shady-oak-butterfly-farm.blogspot.com/2009/07/why-hasnt-my-swallowtail-emerged-from.html My book which can be found at the top left hand corner of my blog is helpful with how to raise butterflies.

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  10. Thank you so much for your answer. I got them about first week of June. And they were feeding on my dill plant so I took out the plant and put it in a 10 gallon tank with lots of food and sprayed with water a lot. I fed them everyday. The first one chrysalised on the 8th and it turned green after it shed I touched it then and it did jerk. The other 3 chrysalised on around the 12th. The are as dark as the branches they are on and none of them are squishy at all. Actually the opposite they are hard. Could they be dehydrated or something? I'm not sure what to do except waiti guess.

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  11. My Black Swallowtail Caterpillar has gone into its crystalless and I was wondering..... can you tell gender identification when or wile it is in its in there

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    1. Goes to this website to see pictures of how to tell the difference. http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/malefemalepupae.php

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  12. I'm scared!!! I have about 12 swallowtail caterpillars, one has chrysalis about two weeks ago... another is starting as we speak and two more ready to go all the others are still small... I thought that the chrysalis was suppose to be hard, well if it's not.... I'M IN TROUBLE this guy is rock hard! I also did not know that you were suppose to keep them in sunlight... there are a classroom project, thus they are in my classroom... I also have not watered them or kept them moist... I don't want to kill the poor guy! HELP!! PLEASE!!!

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    1. The chrysalises are smaller based on the amount of food the caterpillars are given. A sunny window is sufficient. The chrysalises should be hard. If they are soft then that is bad. Chrysalises should be kept away from air conditioning. Some people spritz them with water, but NEVER do that with caterpillars.

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    2. Thank you! should I be worried if it hasn't hatched yet? it's been about two weeks... or less. My class goes crazy over these little guys... feeding is their favorite...

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    3. What is your climate right now? Black Swallowtails can stay in their chrysalis for 6 to 8 months when it begins getting cold. They can stay in their chrysalis all winter. Are the chrysalises hard and not squishy? Are they brown or green?

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  13. My daughter and I was playing at a park and found a caterpillar that it looks to be a swallowtail of some breed. It had the look of a snake tongue. It was on a stick laying on the ground. It had only attached by a few stans of web. We brought it home and overnight it turned into a chrysalis. Brown in color just like the stick that it was on. It is a small guy about half the size of my pinky. I have it in my home at this point but it's averaging in the 60-70 in my house but getting into 35-45 at nights outside. Today is warm so I put it outside thinking it may need it. Any advice you could give?

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    1. I keep my chrysalises inside and they do fine. Keeping it outside could trigger it to stay inside its chrysalis all winter and emerge in spring. The big thing would be to keep them away from air conditioning vents. A little humidity is good.

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  14. I discovered three of these little guys in my parsley and then the next day there was only 1 left so i put him outside in a container with fresh parsley and he ate and pooped and then i cleaned out the container put fresh stuff and he was wandering all over the place then i noticed the other day he attached himself to the side of the container is he ok? he's not moving and looks dull in color. how do i tell if he's passed away? I hope not......ive got a picture of what he looks like that I just described

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    1. When they attach that means they will soon make a chrysalis. If he doesn't make a chrysalis after a day or two, he is probably dead. Please message me if you see any change.

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  15. I've been raising eastern black swallowtails for 2 summers now and have a question about the 4th to 5th instar transition. Do the 4th and 5th instars both have the green and black bands, where the green bands are more pronounced in the 5th instar? I've been watching the instar changes closely, but have never caught the molt at this point or seen a sign of a discarded helmet so I could verify. I'm hoping you have some information on this.

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    1. I researched out your question looking for pictures so you can see the difference. Please take a look and scroll through this website. http://www.raisingbutterflies.org/eastern-black-swallowtail/

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    2. Thanks for pointing me to this website – it was a big help! Last summer, I raised 2 butterflies from eggs, which was the 1st time I did this and had a lot to learn. I later brought in a number of caterpillars right before pupation and they overwintered. So this year, as I observed the instar transitions, I would look for the discarded head capsule after molting to determine the instar points. I realized I must have missed this during the 1st to 2nd instar due to the small size of the caterpillar at this point and the similarities between the 1st and 2nd. In addition, some of the information I found on the internet was not always consistent regarding these different stages. Next year, I plan to keep one egg in a separate container to watch this much more carefully.

      Thanks again for your help and for sharing so much information on butterflies! It is really a beautiful process to watch!

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  16. I currently have 6 black swallowtails in chrysalis stage, and 2 smaller ones that have started turning into their colors (not spiky and black anymore). They ate my carrot patch clean down to stalks only and most of my celery. We made a terrarium out of one of our empty 10 gal. tanks w/mesh lid and the temp inside is 70-72°.this all took place in the last 2 weeks. If they go over winter, is it OK to clip the stalks they're on and tape the stalks against the wall or to the lid? Thanks!

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    1. Yes, it is okay to do that. I like to put mine on screening or netting so they can grip onto it when they emerge. Also, be careful where you keep them. Don't put them directly near an air conditioner to avoid them drying out. They need a little humidity.

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  17. I found 6 little guys on my potted parsley. I put the pot in a net hamper with some cheesecloth on top so we could watch them and give them some protection. The had great appetites for a few days and appear to be in the last phase before creating their chrysalis. A few days ago I found a few wandering and climbing up the net sides. I was cited as I thought this was it. They also had some diarrhea. Then 2 days ago, they were back on the parsley. They don't seem to be eating, but just sitting there. They do move still as I find them in different spots, but they don't seem to be eating anymore. Is it normal for them to have days of inactivity or are they sick?

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    1. They should be fine. Caterpillars slow down as the weather gets colder. They also over winter in their chrysalis so keep them in a safe spot once they pupate.

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  18. I just had a black swallowtail emerge from it's chrysalis. It wouldn't be a problem except it's late fall in Wisconsin and the snow will begin to fall soon. I am afraid it will die if I let it go outside to live. Is there anything I can do to keep it alive through the winter?

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    1. The best thing you can do is to keep it warm inside and have flowers for it. It should live a couple of weeks that way. It would only make it through the winter if it were still in chrysalis stage unfortunately. Did you have it inside when it emerged? If so the warmth of inside could have triggered the butterfly to come out early when it really is winter.

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  19. Hi Elizabeth. I have 18 black swallowtails all going into Chrysalis. One is pupating on the zipper of a pop up cage so I can only open the cage a few inches. How do I deal with that? I was thinking I might have to cut open the cage once the butterflies emerge. I also ntices that both a chrysalis and a pupating cat on the top of the mesh cage have broken girdles. Bith are hanging upside down. I fixed the pupating cat by usibg thread near his middle half and higher up to hold him up so when he molts at least he won't fall but I'm worried he might get tangled in the thread or it might affect his molting.Should I cut the thread at anytime? Also should I use thread to make a girdle for the already formed chrysalis that broke its girdle? Any advice would be helpful!

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  20. The chrysalis by the zipper will be fine as long as you don't open that part. You can easily move it by snipping the silk girdle and then use your nail to peel off the silk. For the chrysalises with broken girdles, they will still emerge, but if you want to help them, you can gently glue them to the enclosure as long as the glue isn't where they emerge.

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  21. Hi, I put our chrysalis in our classroom in Rhode Island in the fall. It's now spring, and there are no signs yet that he/she is ready to emerge. How can I tell if it's dead or not? It's the same color it's always been, green.

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    1. It sounds like it is still alive. If it is squishy, stinks, or is black then it is dead. I would put it in a shady place outside so the weather helps trigger it's emergence.

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  22. I have a black swallowtail caterpillar that just made its harness... but it's hanging upside down.. not a J shape.. that is upright.. it is in a netted environment.and looks safe. should I move it to make a J shape or leave it> it's not in a chrysalis yet but legs are up and should be soon/ thanks so much. I hope I didn't hurt it/. I saw it splurged.. before legs were up and I move it to try to put it on a twig.. but it climbed back to the same location.. and now upside down..

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    1. It would be best not to touch it. Black Swallowtails vary from the Monarch in that they do not make a 'J.' They are held in place with a silk harness like you described. I wish you the best!

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  23. Hi,
    I have a black swallowtail caterpillar and it was doing great, then I fed him some fennel from the grocery store and he did a HUGE green diarrhea. He seemed fine afterwards and just got into position to make his chrysalis. He seems fine but I am concerned if he will be alright now because he lost so much fluid last night. I wish I had gotten him to eat again before he went into this stage. Do you think he will be ok?

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    1. Many herbs in the grocery stores are sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals which kill caterpillars. Always buy from a nursery and ask if they spay them. He might make it, but could have damage.

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    2. Well he successfully made his chrysalis I got to see him spin himself into it, it was amazing! So you think he still might not make it? Is there anything I should look out for at this stage? Thanks so much for your help!

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    3. If the chrysalis starts to turn black and mushy, then you know he didn't make it.

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    4. Thank you for the advice :) Thank goodness he did make it and he is now a beautiful butterfly! He emerged yesterday. My second one actually did the same thing (a big diarrhea) and is now in chrysalis. I think they are just emptying their guts before the next phase..I read that somewhere. Perhaps I just overfed them and there was a lot to eliminate?

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    5. Yes, that is normal. It is cleaning out it's insides like you said.

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  24. Out of My 4 swallowtail caterpillars 3 have made their chrysalis, the 3rd one yesterday.....my 4th is still moving around the tent I have them enclosed in....I gave him more food but not eating,just keeps moving...should I be worried?

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    1. He is probably getting close to making a chrysalis and that is why he is not eating. How big is he?

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  25. I have 4 swallowtail caterpillars. one was in a brown chrysalis ( happen over night) was attached to a branch in the am but by afternoon fall on the bottom of container . what can I do? I touch it with some dill and it pulled away a little .

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    1. There are a couple options. You can gently put glue where the abdomen is and attach it that way. If there is any silk still on the chrysalis you can pin it. Or if you have a netted castle, you can put it on the bottom and it can climb up the sides when it emerges. http://www.thebutterflywebsite.com/butterfly_castles.htm Hope that helps!

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  26. Our black swallowtail made it out of his chrysalis, but he is just hanging there. It's been three days. He scrambles and moves his legs if we get close, but seems stuck. His wings are still shriveled too. What can we do?

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    1. Sadly, this butterfly has a defect or got injured during emergence. The most humane thing to do in this case is to put it in a bag and stick in the freezer for an hour or two. This will put it out of misery quickly.

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  27. We found a Black Swallowtail on our carrots, brought him inside and put him in the Monarch cage. He done great, ate, pooped, etc. Then he started wandering around looking for a place to hang. He went to the top of the cage and has been there ever since. Been 4 days now, he hasn't went into his chrysalis or ate. He's still alive, because he moves if bother him. Is this normal or should we put him down?

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    1. I haven't had that happen before, but as long as he is still alive, I would leave him be. Black Swallowtail over winter in their chrysalis so they tend to be slower this time of year.

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