Last year I had quite a few Eastern Black Swallowtails eating most of my dill. I was okay with that, as almost all of my cucumbers were too bitter to can. The weather got too hot too fast for my cucumbers. So, I was disappointed not to be able to can any pickles last year.
The dill was fine, though, and the beautiful butterflies loved it and laid lots of eggs underneath the leaves. When the caterpillars got big enough, I put them in my butterfly house along with a bunch of dill and watched until they all got into a chrysalis. A few did come out & looked healthy. They flew good so I assumed they were healthy.
However, I had three chrysalis that didn’t look right but, I just left them alone. I figured after numerous freezes that they were all dead in there. (I had my butterfly incubator on the back porch where it’s not heated nor cooled.)
Nope. One by one those butterflies managed to come out, and we got to watch them fly away, which was just super fun and amazing. I plan to plant a ton of extra dill this year and try that again. I think it’s a great activity for a learning experience for children and adults alike.
So please, don’t put chemicals on your plants, because you will kill “good bugs” with the “bad bugs.” Poison doesn’t discriminate. It kills ALL bugs and possibly birds, too, as birds eat the insects and feed them to their babies.
Believe it or not I just found this beautiful caterpillar this week, on October 14, 2020.
It’s not really the time of year I would expect to find it, but here it is.
Also, if you notice this is not the normal color of this species. It would most often be more green with white stripes and yellow spots.
Since it was on a fennel plant in my garden, that gave me a hint of what it might be. When I looked it up, it was noted that once in a while this butterfly’s caterpillar is black. I have never seen this myself in my garden. Interesting!
The Pipe-vine caterpillar is the only other species that has the two colors on a regular basis in my area. So the lesson we have here is that the plant has a lot to do about identifying a species.
I have to say, it’s pretty neat that this caterpillar has the ability to have two different morphs.
I found a dozen of these caterpillars devouring my dill. When there was nothing but a stem left, they crawled up the side of my planter and crawled away. I thought they might find the nearby parsley and ingest it too, but no sign of that and no sign if them.
I suppose they are somewhere nearby spinning their cocoons. Maybe I’ll see some pretty black swallowtails around soon if my nesting phoebes and barn swallows or bluebirds don’t get them first!
From Sue Ann:
I have had many of these in my bronze fennel plant, and I hope they have gone off to pupate, too! The fennel also hosted the caterpillar of the cabbage looper moth. I’ll plant dill next year, for sure. The more black swallowtails, the better!
More about the Black Swallowtail, from Cindy
Papilio polyxenes, the black swallowtail, American swallowtail or parsnip swallowtail, is a butterfly found throughout much of North America. It is the state butterfly of Oklahoma and New Jersey. Wikipedia
Black Swallowtail Life Cycle: Overview and Timings
Generally 4 to 10 days, depending on temperature and host plant
Caterpillar (larval) stage
3 to 4 weeks
Chrysalis (pupal) stage
10 to 20 days (except for overwintering pupae)
Adult butterfly stage
6 to 14 days
Facts about the Black Swallowtail
And More from Sue Ann
I had to add this observation from last night, as I was dining outdoors at the Central Avenue Bistro in Cameron (with safe distancing and all that). I felt something prickling my ankle and looked down to find this fellow. It must be on the last instar, because it’s big! I believe it’s a live oak metria moth (Metria amelia) given that it and many friends were falling from the live oak tree we were sitting under, though iNaturalist has yet to confirm me.
The moth looks like this, which really would blend right in with an oak tree!