Eastern swallowtail butterfly chrysalis!

4 Jul

At about noon we were in the garden and saw only 2 caterpillars (out of our original 7) left on the carrot greens and wondered whether they had wandered off to form chrysalises or if they had fallen victim to wasps or birds.  The big poops (!) on the carrot greens suggested pupating was imminent, but we couldn’t see chrysalises anywhere.  We gave up and went inside, hoping to find something to which we could transfer the caterpillars to watch them metamorphose.

By the time we got back outside, though, it was too late.  The remaining caterpillars had disappeared by 5pm . . . and then Audrey, half jumping the garden fence says, “Hey, I see one!”  Warner, Jaydon, and I crowd around and see that she’s right.  There, hanging by a single, silky thread is an Eastern swallowtail butterfly caterpillar.  Within about 5 minutes, it was starting to pupate, and the whole process was finished just 2-3 minutes later.

I have now learned that the caterpillars tend to wander off to find a place to pupate after a big final poop, attach themselves to their chosen spots with sticky silk at one end and by a wrap-around silk thread at the other, and then hang for about 24 hours before forming their chrysalises.  It’s still amazing to me that we arrived and found the caterpillar at exactly the right moment to see it all happen.

It chose a not-great spot, unfortunately — as Warner says, “It’s right behind 3d base.”  We tried to protect it with some artfully arranged (so as not to be too pointy) hardware cloth, and stuck up next to it the sign I made a couple years ago — it has pictures of the Eastern swallowtail butterfly caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly.  If our caterpillar/chrysalis miraculously manages to survive the rain and baseball, it would emerge in 10-14 days.  So we should start looking on July 13.  Fingers crossed!


6 Responses to “Eastern swallowtail butterfly chrysalis!”


  1. Can You Spy the Butterfly? | Concord Village EarthLab - June 6, 2014

    […] As we’ve seen firsthand, these and other butterflies like to lay eggs on host plants like our carrot, fennel, and dill so the newly hatched caterpillars have food to eat. (Before they start their transformation into pupae/ crysalis. ) […]

  2. What’s In Our Butterfly Garden | Concord Village EarthLab - June 16, 2014

    […] the past two years, cvEarthlab has acquired many butterfly host and nectar plants, in addition to our butterfly bushes.  These […]

  3. Another Amazing Insect Story in the Garden: Ladybugs! | Concord Village EarthLab - July 1, 2014

    […] to the black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars — most of them seem to have disappeared, and I haven’t seen the telltale massive poops that let you know they’ve gone off to form….  Then again, I’ve been pretty in-and-out of the garden lately. . […]

  4. What’s In Our Butterfly Garden: August ’14 Edition | Concord Village EarthLab - August 6, 2014

    […] of the butterfly plants that were planted this year we not successful, we’ve still got many butterfly host and nectar plants, in addition to our butterfly bushes, that are thriving. These […]

  5. Why I love mulch! | Concord Village EarthLab - December 18, 2017

    […] species of butterflies, other insects like ladybugs and their larvae, and earthworms — kids have even photographed and video-recorded Black Swallowtail butterflies making their chrysalise… on 2 occasions!). In addition, the required safety surfacing would have likely required us to cut […]

  6. Is This A Pupa? A Butterfly That Overwintered On Milkweed? | Concord Village EarthLab - March 18, 2018

    […] Found on native milkweed while pruning today:  A specimen that looks like it could be a pupa or some type of chrysalis. […]

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