Black swallowtail life cycle
July 9, 2010
I thought you’d enjoy my photographic documentation of the Black Swallowtail life cycle.
Sherry Young
Roe, Monroe County, Arkansas

Black Swallowtail Egg

Hi Sherry,
Thanks so much for sending us your documentation of the early stages of the life cycle of a Black Swallowtail.
Your caterpillar images show two different instars.  Caterpillars molt five times before the chrysalis stage, and each of these instars, in addition to allowing the caterpillar to grow, often demonstrate different coloration and patterns.

INSERT:  July 9, 2010

Black swallowtail 2nd instar
July 9, 2010
Of course, after I submit my 6 pics of the black swallowtail life cycle, I FINALLY get a good picture of what I believe is a 2nd instar!
Sherry Young
Roe, Monroe County, Arkansas
Ed. Note: This was inserted from a later email. End Insert

A mature caterpillar might have no resemblance to an earlier instar.

Black swallowtail life cycle part 2
July 9, 2010
the first email includes egg, early instar (3 I think) and a 5th instar. This one includes 5th getting ready for pupation, chrysalis, and newly emerged butterfly!
Sherry Young
Roe, Monroe County, Arkansas

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar prepares to pupate

Hi again Sherry,
We are thrilled that you rounded out this Life Cycle of a Black Swallowtail so completely.

Your adult butterfly is a female as evidenced by the blue markings on the wings.  Can you provide us with the name of the food plant.  It does not appear to be parsley nor carrots (caterpillars are often called Carrot Worms) but it does look like it might be dill.

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Location: Monroe County, Arkansas

3 Responses to Black Swallowtail Life Cycle

  1. Sherry Young says:

    Pretty girl isn’t she! She emerged this morning. I was so afraid she’d fly off before I could get my battery off the charger, run down the hall and find my camera, put the battery in, and make it back outside. But she didn’t. At first, she was in an odd position where it was difficult to get good pictures. Then she flew over a couple of branches and posed for me. Yes, it is a dill plant, it’s about 30 inches in diameter at the base, and about 5 feet tall. It’s been growing about 5 years strictly as a habitat for my black swallowtails.

  2. Larry Smith says:

    We had a black swallowtail butterfly in our Christmas tree. It fell out when my wife was removing the ornaments on January 14. It did not seem to want to feed on sugar water or fruit placed out for it. The black swallowtail died yesterday, having lived for about 11 days.

    Presumably black swallowtails don’t migrate as do monarch butterflies. We were uncertain if it had been hibernating in the tree when it fell out or came out of a chrysalis. At any rate it was nice to enjoy its beauty on January days.

    When we were first married, I placed a BS caterpillar in a jar, it formed a chrysalis, and then emerged some weeks later. My wife had never seen the likes of this and was truly amazed at the butterfly that came from a caterpillar. I’ll never forget the look of amazement on her face when she saw the butterfly in all its glory.

    • bugman says:

      Thanks for providing this comment. We suspect the Chrysalis was in the tree and the adult Black Swallowtail emerged because of the warmth indoors.

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