Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Swallowtail Caterpillars!

I thought today I'd talk about my 'pillars! A few weeks ago I found these little caterpillars on my parsley. I tried to look them up but had no luck until I looked up what butterflies/moths use parsley as a host plant. I decided they were black swallowtail butterflies. It turns out caterpillars go through about five stages called "instars" and you can't use a caterpillar identification tool until fifth instar, mine were about 2nd instar.

Well I decided I wanted to raise them and they seemed a bit like a bird buffet (ten big fat caterpillars in the open?) so I built a cage around the parsley. I used dowel rods that I stuck in the dirt and I wrapped some nylon screen around it. I then folded the top down and clipped it with a chip bag clip.

Those little dudes ate 6 parsley plants! I kept having to put new ones in the cage. After a few weeks they pupated and about a week after that they emerged. How beautiful they were!

These pictures were taken as I opened the top to release them after their wings dried. The one in the top view picture had a deformed wing (see the crimp?) and was unable to fly away. I was so sad :( I did so much research but there wasn't much I could do, so I put it on my giant Lantana and went out every few hours to check that it hadn't fallen to the ground. It disappeared the second day, I'm sure it was eaten. Which is very very sad, but probably for the best, life must be miserable for a butterfly that can't fly.

It was a great experience though! I hope some day I can grow more butterflies. Next year I'll plant host plants for various butterflies varieties to see if I can get more caterpillars. I also like to plant for the honeybees to try to support their populations as best as I can.

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