Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hooray! Black Swallowtails!

   I can hardly believe it! Thursday evening I was standing in the kitchen, making dinner, lazily staring out the doors, like I do, when I saw movement. A blackish butterfly was dancing up and down over the Parsley mound, could it be?! Yep, sure enough, it was a Black Swallowtail laying eggs! In the past, our yard has not been a successful incubator of butterfly caterpillars. For example, last year out of a dozen Monarch cats, only two made it to the fifth instar stage, and after that, I have no idea what happened to them. This spring, Jeff and I watched a Monarch lay about a half dozen or so eggs, none of which made it past the first instar. So after being afraid to interfere with nature, I'd decided a while ago that from now on, if I find any more cool cats in the yard, they're coming inside. It seems like their only chance at success since our yard apparently has too many caterpillar predators. So far I have six, three of which hatched this morning. There may be more outside, but I'll have to wait until they get big enough to see. I splurged and bought them a cozy little reptile terrarium, which is on a shelf in the sunroom. I hope they like it here!

They're so tiny!

I didn't even realize they were spikey until I enlarged this photo.

Did I mention they're tiny? Around 2-3 millimeters long. I doesn't look like they eat much, but they do poop a lot.

An unhatched egg.

One of the other eggs, they are sooooo hard to find.

For more pictures and information on the life cycle of the caterpillars, click here.


  1. How do they look like, when they're grown?

  2. Satu- I just added a link at the bottom of the post that shows a bunch of pictures of the different stages of their life cycle, you can see what they look like there.

  3. Extremely cool. I think I saw a monarch laying eggs on some swamp milkweed the other day but haven't had time to look for them.

  4. Hey coolio! Those guys are tiny!! I have also recently adopted a small batch of caterpillars. Mine are Ailanthus Webworm Moth cats. Mom laid her eggs on an 8" tall seedling tree which the cats defoliated in no time flat. No other trees are within a days walk so I have been feeding them ailanthus leaves that I have found. Today I plan to ATTEMPT to relocate them to a larger tree/foodsource. Good luck with your babies.

  5. Hi! I'm also in VA. I usually have a lot of swallowtail caterpillars. I've discovered that offering them multiple pots of curley parsley, rue, and fennel gives the butterflies more spots to choose from when laying eggs. Even if predators grab a few, there are still more hiding in other places. I've had a few in my flat leaf parsley and carrots this summer, too.

    Great idea to bring them inside to protect them. I love watching them as they get bigger. They grab the leaves with their front feet and just chow down. They remind me of hungry teenagers.

  6. Holy shit, this is amazing, you're amazing, thank you for passing along your blog. Or thank Jeff, whatev. This will now be a part of my Metafilter/BoingBoing/Reddit/random comic book blog regular interwebs surfing menu. (And now I totally want to know what kind of camera you're using. I've got a sweet Nikon D70 as my rig, and really, I should blog, but my interwebs is too spotty and I don't really have interesting things to say and now I'm totally babbling. AHEM.)


    -yr friendly neighborhood ex-barista/Mexican-food waitress, who would TOTALLY LOVE IT if you would email her or something

  7. *LISE!!!

    Thanks for visiting and thanks for the kind words! I hope you see this because I can't email you because I TOTALLY don't have your email address! You'll find mine if you click view my complete profile on the main page. By the way, my camera is a Canon Rebel T3i with a 100mm macro lens and it's my favoritest toy in the whole wide world.