Adventures in Raising Butterflies: Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Updates

Large Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

In the past 12 days I’ve watched 21 caterpillars grow while the dill in my garden has slowly gotten eaten up. Out of the 23 caterpillars that hatched from the second batch of eggs an Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly laid on the dill in my herb garden, only two died so far (the runts that never seemed to grow much). As of today 8 of them have formed chrysalises, 3 of them are wandering around their enclosure trying to decide where they want to form a chrysalis, and the other 10 are happily munching on dill while they finish growing.

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillars

When an Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar is ready to form its chrysalis it becomes more active than ever, cruising around everywhere in search of the perfect location to settle down and begin its work of turning into a butterfly. Once the caterpillar selects a spot, it attaches itself by its back end, then creates a little sling for itself out of silk to hold its front end up.

Pre-Chrysalis Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar    Eastern Black Swallowtail Chrysalis

Now that the caterpillars have gotten so much bigger I have to go out and pick more dill for them twice a day to keep up with their voracious appetites. Of course everything that goes in eventually comes out, so I’ve also had the delight of cleaning up more caterpillar poop than I ever thought possible! I really enjoy watching them eat, they’ll start at the tip of a dill leaf and slowly push it into their mouths with their little legs until they reach the end.

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Eating Dill

I love their faces, and the way they press them against a stem when they’re resting. These little guys have really started to grow on me, which is good because I found another small batch of freshly laid eggs attached to my dill the other day. So far two have hatched, and the tiny 2mm long caterpillars will be the beginning to my third round of raising butterflies this summer!

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Resting

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