Life Cycle of a Two Tailed Swallowtail: Part 2

this is the second part of the life cycle.
November 21, 2010
Location:  dirt road 4 miles north of nederland colorado in western boulder county.
the next stage the caterpillars turn brown.

Two Tailed Swallowtail changes color

they stop eating and hang on a leaf and turn brown. the first picture in this group is of a caterpillar in the process of turning brown. it takes about 8 hours for them to complete this. then they begin their walk about. they walk and walk around looking for a place to pupate.

Two Tailed Swallowtails: Fifth Instar Green and Brown

the 2nd picture is of one of the brown ones on his walk about passing his still green sibling.  they are 2 inches long now. the first one turned brown on sept 22, 2009.

Two Tailed Swallowtail: Pre-Chrysalis

when he finds his place on a twig (3rd photo) he will glue his bottom to the twig and then spin a silk thread to hold his top half to the twig. as you can see he is holding on with his pro legs as well. he becomes very still and hangs there for about two days.

Two Tailed Swallowtail: Pre-Chrysalis

the 4th picture shows that he has let go of the twig with his pro legs.

Two Tailed Swallowtail Chrysalis

and in the 5th photo he has shed his skin for the last time and is now a chrysalis. i only got to see one of them actually  shedding his skin at this stage and i didn’t get a picture. i was surprised at how quickly they come out of that skin and still have the thread attached and the bottom glued.  the first one pupated on sept 24,2009. i kept them all winter in a cold room and spritzed them weekly to keep them moist.  and it wasn’t till the third week of july 2010 when the first one hatched. by then i was keeping them outside in shade, but warm. i still spritzed them to keep them moist.

Two Tailed Swallowtail emerges from Chrysalis

the 6th photo is a male two tail just recently hatched. he is still letting his wings harden. it takes a few hours before they are ready to fly. he started to flap around the aquarium and i knew he was ready. this one hatched on july 24th,2010.
the last photo shows him released. he flew into a pine tree and stayed there for a little while. i was elated with each release. all five of the eggs hatched and grew and became chrysalids and were released in the same area i found the eggs. there were two females and three males. the last one hatched on aug. 7th 2010. nearly a year from the date the eggs were laid.  what a magical experience for me.
hope this can be of some use to anyone wanting to raise two tailed swallowtails.
venice kelly
nov.21, 2010

Two Tailed Swallowtail

Hi again Venice,
We are in awe of your marvelous documentation of the life cycle of a Two Tailed Swallowtail.  Thanks so much for providing this information for our viewership.  Dear Readers, be sure to read Part 1 of this metamorphosis if you missed it.  Again, we want to add that caterpillars undergo five instars, and we suspect you missed a molt somewhere between four and five, and since your email indicates you never witnessed the molting process until the chrysalis stage, that would indicate the error in your count.  Please do not take this as a criticism as we are in awe of your dedication and the wealth of information you have provided.

thanks daniel for letting me know that when they turn brown it is the 5th instar. i was unclear about the terminology for this.
thanks for all of your knowledge. and i am very happy it didn’t take you 2 hours to post.

3 thoughts on “Life Cycle of a Two Tailed Swallowtail: Part 2”

  1. Thank you for posting these pictures! I found a brown swallowtail caterpillar yesterday and was not sure how far along he was in his progression towards chrysalis-dom, but in finding your site I was much more clear on the likely timeline. Late last night, after I put a twig in his enclosure, he found a spot and this morning he’s in the 4th picture phase. I’m excited to watch him transform. Thank you!

  2. I hope you can tell me what I should do! My swallow tail caterpillar attached his bottom to the stick and has the silk attached around the top part but his lower half came un-glued from the stick he was on. Have you experienced this ever? Will he be ok if left alone or should I try doing something to help prop him up?


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