black swallowtail caterpillar: i will be a butterfly

‘I WILL BE  A BUTTERFLY, I WILL,” the black swallowtail caterpillar said between bites of dill foliage yesterday. “I think you are very beautiful even now,” I said, and asked if I could take his picture. “All right,” he said, hardly stopping nibbling even for a moment. “But really, I will someday. Just you wait and see.”

  1. David Brogren says:

    This is great info. For the last week we have been watching these caterpillar’s lunch on our dill plants. They have quadrupled in size over the last week….

  2. These are awesome. I grow dill just for them. Unfortunately, the heat seems to be keeping all insect numbers down here right now especially the butterflies.

    I can’t help my self when I find one, I “pet” it so it will stick out its antenna.

  3. Lorie says:

    I also plant for them…right in front of the Joe Pye Weed and asclepias so that it is a buffet for all stages. Dill is the favorite, but bronze fennel is dessert, and, in a good year, re-seeds. One could waste an afternoon (if it weren’t 105 degrees) watching the dill disappear and love every minute of the drama.

  4. Rita says:

    I love them too and think they’re beautiful. That’s why I bring them inside and rear them on parsley in a fish tank so I can watch the different instars and how efficiently they eat their shed skins–no waste and good protein. It’s amazing to watch them throw a loop around a stick and lean back, shed the last skin and suddenly here is a beautiful green or brown chrysalis, depending on the time of year. And in ten days, I get to admire a gorgeous, fresh, velvety black butterly with an array of accessory colors. Each will climb onto my finger for a final lesson about avoiding birds then fly away to find a mate.

  5. Maribeth says:

    I had about thirteen of these beautiful creatures on my fennel and the next day they had disappeared! Could birds’ eaten them for lunch? I was so disappointed. Any ideas?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Maribeth. Well…yes, birds could have feasted, or (more hopeful version of the story) they could have been starting to prepare to overwinter as pupae (sort of making themselves into mummies for the long nap from fall through late winter/spring). You can sort of see the silken threads on the stem of the dill — I think that’s what they will wrap themselves with, and another hint is that mine wasn’t all green, but more a white background (which I am thinking might be a little older/ready to start getting prepared for hibernation?). You can look at the whole life cycle in photos etc. here. But then there are the birds…

    2. nancy s says:

      Been feeding caterpillar parsley plants but now all it wants is to run away from the plants. Found it on side of house. Frightened wasp or other will kill it so tried keeping it in netting and is still trying to get out. put large twig in its netting as think its molting??

      1. margaret says:

        Hi, Nancy. I try to just let them alone and fend for themselves. They probably know best where to be and what to eat and when. Sounds like it is heading into another life phase, yes. Set it free?

  6. Rhody gardener says:

    At my house, cardinals have discovered the bronze fennel and the swallowtail larvae. The birds remember from year to year, and before the larvae get big enough to make a chrysalis, the cardinals eat them. I have tried netting the plants, but the cardinals eat through the net. Very frustrating. I’ve started planting the fennel in different locations and last week, I saw a black swallowtail- my first in 24 years!

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Rhody Gardener. I have some flying around this year, too! Wonderful, isn’t it? Nice to hear from you. Tell the birds to behave. :)

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