Currently viewing the tag: "Buggy Life Cycles"

Subject: Painted Lady?
Location: Cuernavaca, Mexico, alt: 1580 m
February 25, 2016 9:45 pm
Hi, I’m hoping you can help me again.
All three of the photos below were taken in October 2014, in the same plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico (altitude 1580 m). Those caterpillars were all over that plant for several seasons, until eventually there were enough to kill it. The butterflies are also very common. We believe they’re the same species, but obviously are not 100% sure.
From the caterpillar I thought a Painted Lady or Red Admiral, but the chrysalis and butterfly don’t match.
Thanks for any help you can provide.
Signature: Peculiarist

White Rayed Patch

White Rayed Patch

Dear Peculiarist,
This lovely little Brush Footed Butterfly is a White Rayed Patch,
Chlosyne ehrenbergii, which we identified on Learn About Butterflies where it states:  “The eggs are pale yellow in colour, and laid in batches of up to 200, on the underside of leaves of the foodplant, Buddleia.”  We believe the leaves in your images are of butterfly bush or Buddleia, so the caterpillar and chrysalides are most likely the immature stages of the White Rayed Patch.  We will check with Keith Wolfe for verification as we cannot seem to locate images of the immature stages, though the appearance of the caterpillar and chrysalides are consistent with other members of the genus.

Chrysalides of a White Rayed Patch

Chrysalides of a White Rayed Patch

Keith Wolfe verifies Chrysalis and Imago, but questions Caterpillar
Hola Daniel,
Would you please ask “Peculiarist” to kindly send me (OK to share my email address) ONLY the caterpillar photo at FULL size?  The pupae look good for C. ehrenbergii, but the larva appears a little different.  Muchas gracias!

Caterpillar of a White Rayed Patch

Caterpillar of a White Rayed Patch

Peculiarist Corrects Attachments
Hi Daniel,
As I was updating my page I noticed that this is the same caterpillar I sent before (my photo folders are a bit of a mess, and I had this duplicated in another folder), that was tentatively identified as a Pine Moth caterpillar. They do look alike, but I think with the extra information you have in these three photos White-rayed Patch is a more likely match. The food tree matches.
Thanks for your help, and I’ll be more careful in sending the most complete information I can in the future.

Keith Wolfe supplies some links.
Buenas noches James and Daniel,
Muchas gracias for the corroborating larval image.  Being endemic to Mexico, life-history photos of “Mariposa parche negra” are difficult to find online, so here are some examples . . .
Eggs >
Young cats >
Midsize cats >
Mature cat >
Chrysalises >
Hostplant >
Adults >
Mil felicidades,

Subject: What’s going on here?
Location: SW Virginia
July 31, 2015 10:39 am
What is this interesting insect? We spotted it in a flower pot and filmed it emerging from a caterpillar or pupa. (See It’s about an inch long. Thanks!
Signature: Curious

Metamorphosis of a Crane Fly

Metamorphosis of a Crane Fly

Dear Curious,
Your images of the metamorphosis of a Crane Fly in the family Tipulidae are a very exciting addition to our archives.  Crane Flies do not bite despite their resemblance to giant Mosquitoes.

Newly emerged Crane Fly

Newly emerged Crane Fly


Subject: What are these?
Location: Elwood, IL
July 13, 2015 6:10 am
I found these caterpillar/larva on my dill and am not able to identify them. Can you help? I have swallowtaill caterpillars on my dill and am hoping these won’t kill the caterpillars.
Signature: Penny

Unknown Caterpillars on Dill

Purple Carrot Seed Moth Caterpillars on Dill

Dear Penny,
We are still working on this identification.  The internet is filled with Black Swallowtail Caterpillars feeding on dill, but we are having problems identifying your caterpillars.  They remind us of the Sophora Worm, but we cannot find any record of them feeding on dill, their diet being confined to members of the legume family.  We suspect this is some species of moth, and we don’t believe you need to worry about them killing Swallowtail caterpillars.

Update:  15 July 2016
A special thanks to Jennifer who after nearly a year provided us with an ID for the Purple Carrot-Seed Caterpillar, Depressaria depressana, in the Twirler Moth superfamily Gelechioidea, which represents a new subcategory for our site.  Jennifer also provided a BugGuide link where it states this introduced species and:  “The larvae feed on plants in the parsley family, mainly the flowers and unripe seeds. Hosts include coriander, dill, carrot (Daucus carota), anise (Pimpinella), fennel, caraway, cumin (Cuminum cyminum), celery, parsley, parsnip (Pastinaca), and cow-parsnip”

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.

complete life cycle of two tailed swallowtail
November 21, 2010
Location:  dirt road 4 miles north of nederland colorado in western boulder county
hi daniel,
here are the photo’s i was telling you about of the complete life cycle of two tailed swallowtails. i have to send them in two emails as i am not able to send all 14 photo’s in one email.
the first seven photo’s begin with a picture of the female two tail laying her eggs on a choke cherry bush.

Two Tailed Swallowtail Lays Eggs

it was aug. 9, 2009. we were on a dirt road 4 miles north of nederland colorado in western boulder county. i had never seen a two tail at this elevation (about 8,500 feet). i found 5 eggs and brought them home to raise. i had never raised butterflies before so the whole process was new to me. and i quickly found out that two tails have a very long process to complete their life cycle.

Two Tailed Swallowtail egg shell and hatchling First Instar

the 2nd photo is of a hatchling. it is greatly enlarged. the eggs are the size of a pin head and the caterpillar (larvae)is the size of a comma. this is the first instar. the date of the first hatchling was aug. 21st.

Two Tailed Swallowtail Caterpillar: Second Instar

seven days later (3rd photo) one molted to the 2nd instar.  now they look like bird poop as a protective measure. they didn’t all molt on the same day.

Two Tailed Swallowtail Caterpillar: Third Instar

two weeks after that they molted to the 3rd instar  (4th photo). they still look similar but are getting bigger all the time and eating more.

Two Tailed Swallowtail Caterpillar: Fourth Instar

about a week later (5th photo)they started molting again and the photo shows one crawling away from his skin. this is the 4th instar and he looks like green velvet. there are several stages to the 4th instar.

Two Tailed Swallowtail: Fourth Instar

the first is the green velvet look then they become brighter green and the white bird shaped marking on their backs still shows (6th photo) and then the white marking disappears (7th photo). they are getting bigger and bigger and eating LOTS!
i will continue this in the 2nd email  with the remaining photo’s.  thanks, venice

Two Tailed Swallowtail: Final Instar we believe

Dear Venice,
Thanks so much for sending this awesome documentation.  We don’t mean to disagree with you, but caterpillars have five instars.  We believe the final image in the first half of this series is actually the final or Fifth Instar.  When the caterpillar is getting ready to form a chrysalis, it often changes colors, which is where the second half of your series picks up.  Dear Readers, Don’t forget to read Part 2 of the Life Cycle of a Two Tailed Swallowtail.

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.