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Catepillar on parsley: need ID please (Black Swallowtail)

[img]https://i989.photobucket.com/albums/af14/lmkingwall1251/bugids_June20002.jpg[/img]

Does anyone know what this is? They are very small, dark brown with a whitish band around their middle (that doesn't go to their underside). I know they were eating the parsley because, although no holes in leaves, they "pooped" and when I ran my finger over it, it left a green trail.

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applestar
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Most definitely Black Swallowtail caterpillars in one of the first 3 instar stages. I always grow extra parsley, carrots, dill, fennel, as well as Golden Alexander wildflower and move these Babies from parsley and carrots and dill I want to save to their own plants. You can also raise them on carrot tops in a narrow neck bottle of water.

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One didn't make it, but one did, and I'd rather leave him where he is. How much parsley will he eat? He's still working on the first plant, and there are two others plants in the same container (plus several more right next to this one). He's already 5x his original size and has gone through his first molt. Now he's a much prettier white/black/yellow-orange stripe.

My sister, who lives in VT, was trying to explain to me how I should move him and the plants into a fish bowl or aquarium, give him a vertical or diagonal stick to attach to, and watch him (in his chrysalis) all winter, making sure he's protected from any bad weather (I guess he stays outside) until he emerges next spring. Do you think she is talking about the same kind of swallowtail I have here? Would the process be the same here in Missouri? I don't want to bother him if he would be OK on his own.

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There are a number of predators that can harm the caterpillar. Most obvious being birds and spiders, but also parasitic insects (which we call beneficial insects in the garden) like Tachnid flies and Brachonid wasps.

My kids and I raise Monarch butterflies every summer~fall to tag and release. We found that it's imperative to collect eggs and 1st~2nd instar caterpillars and bring inside to raise because otherwise, they disappear from the garden.

We always bring a small number of Black Swallowtails to raise as well.

Black swallowtails initially do well in tall jars like pickle jars or 1/2 gallon canning jars. I trim the long stems of parsley, dill, and carrot tops and put them in narrow-necked bottle of water (I like 2 oz. brown tincture bottles). The mouth of the jar is covered with cheesecloth and rubber band. Typically, they will need to be given a new leaf every 2 days in the beginning, but by the time they reach 4th instar, you'll be kept busy. Usually, when they pupate and make a chrysalis, they'll just hang on to one of the stiff leaf stems.

If the chrysalis is lime green, the butterfly will eclose/emerge this season. If the chrysalis is dried grass tan/brown, then it will not emerge until next spring when it's at least warm enough to plant out tomatoes, maybe even peppers. I just keep them in the house, but in a cool room with minimum artificial light. Last winter, I made the mistake of leaving a chrysalis in a Southeast exposure upstairs room with tropical plants that received supplemental light until bed time, and the poor butterfly emerged in the middle of the winter (late Feb). I tried to keep it alive by providing sugar water and Melon-flavored Gatorade (strangely, this is the recommended butterfly food according to Dept. of Entomology in a Florida university, I forget which), but it died after about 10 days, which I think is actually about average lifespan for these guys. (Monarchs can live for 8+ months).

If you end up raising many caterpillars, I recommend you get a Butterfly Garden or Pavilion from www.insectlore.com or you can use a pop-up laundry basket turned upside-down, or make your own cage with a tomato cage wrapped in tulle, or with tulle and embroidery hoops. (There are many DIY ideas).

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I wish I could know before he pupates whether or not he's coming out now or next spring. I read on the Internet that those that overwinter are usually late summer swallowtails, not this early in the summer. Is there anyway to know for sure, based on the stage he's in right now (somewhere between 3rd instar and full grown)?

I don't want to disturb him if I don't have to, but I also don't want him to fall prey to a bird, spider or wasp. Here's a thought: what if I build him a "teepee" out of tall sticks and light row cover so he can stay in his current location? (It's an herb garden just outside my back door, like a window box, but I hang it over my deck railing.) I could put the sticks right in the soil (to a height of about 10 inches) and drape the row cover over, secure it on three sides and put small rocks on the end I want to open to check on the cat or water my plants. He'd have several sticks to choose from as well as his favorite food -- unless he's going to go through more than 3 parsley plants!

If you think he might be one that emerges in the next few weeks, can you foresee any problems with this arrangement?

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Oh this one's definitely going to pupate and emerge this summer. It's way too early for overwintering. Notice that the color of the chrysalis is intended to camouflage.

I'm not sure if you idea would work. I would have to think about it. (Just had dinner -- full tummy -- I think the blood has left my brains :lol:)

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[img]https://i989.photobucket.com/albums/af14/lmkingwall1251/Samisheds_June27_cropped.jpg[/img]

He just shed again this morning. This is the second molt I've witnessed, but the third (or maybe the fourth?) in all. Is this it? Is he done? It seems like he went through the stages so quickly. He must be gifted! (Doesn't every mother think that about her son ... or daughter?!) LOL

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9 of these in my herb garden...on my dill

I'm soooo glad I checked here before I did anything. I found these yesterday when I was pulling weeds...sure glad I didn't destroy them as was my first impulse to do!

This is my first herb garden. It's great to have ya'll as a resource. Thanks for the info! :)

Questions: Mine look like the last picture. About how long will it take them to turn in to butterflies? Will they form a cocoon on the dill stem?
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[img]https://i989.photobucket.com/albums/af14/lmkingwall1251/Sami_June28thru30049_cropped.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i989.photobucket.com/albums/af14/lmkingwall1251/Sami_June28thru30036_cropped.jpg[/img]

It's only been 3 days since I took that pic, zookprqn, and mine has almost doubled in size and is still eating! I'm not sure how much help I can be to you (it's mostly been trial and error), but I have read lots about BS in the last 10 days (was it just a week ago Sunday that I found what looked like bird poop on my parsley?!) and here are the URLs to some sites you might want to scan:

https://www.glorious-butterfly.com/black-swallowtail-butterfly.html

https://www.butterflygardeningandconservation.com/butterfly/st/black.php

https://melanys.tripod.com/black_swallowtail.htm

https://insects.about.com/od/butterfliesmoths/p/P_polyxenes.htm

https://bugguide.net/node/view/33939

https://www.pbase.com/rcm1840/lifecycleofblsw

https://www.butterflyschool.org/teacher/raising.html

https://www.glorious-butterfly.com

You'll note that none of them give an exact timeframe between life stages for the catepillar, except to say he will pupate for about 8-12 days. Until mine finds a stick and starts his metamorphosis, I have no way of knowing how much longer it will be.

Good luck!

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Sorry, that last URL is the main page of the first site listed (but the first link is more specific to black swallowtails).

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SLG, with all the cat' photos I have, I've never taken one from the angle of your 2nd photo-- oohh he (or she ...I should find out how to tell in cat stage) is sooooo cute! :D

Have fun! ... And you, too, Z! :wink:

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[img]https://i989.photobucket.com/albums/af14/lmkingwall1251/Samiattachestostick_June30009_cropp.jpg[/img]

Well, I got my answer yesterday afternoon when the cat went exploring and finally (after climbing up and down for what seemed like forever) found a stick to his liking ... and stuck! (Of course, he picked one of the larger sticks that's holding up the row cover "teepee" but I guess that's OK.) He also didn't climb too far up. How do I know if he'll have enough room to hang so his wings dry? I've ordered a hamper from Walmart (like the butterfly cage, only bigger) but not sure it's going to get here on time. If it does, can I safely remove the chrysalis stick from the herb garden and place it in the hamper at an angle so he has more room to stretch his wings, etc. when he emerges?

I have read that it can take up to 24 hours for the chrysalis to form. Is that true? Also, most of the BS sites give 8-12 days as the average time of pupation. Does this sound right to those of you with more experience at this? I hope it's quick, because I have to leave town for a week on July 13, and I'd hate to miss the big event! (My boyfriend will be here to monitor the situation in my absence.)

Lots of questions, I know. Once I have this first one behind me, I'll have more confidence. I've already planted more parsley where this cat ate it down to the stems, so hopefully I will get more of these wonderful creatures to visit my yard.

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Were you amazed by how much shorter/smaller he became as a chrysalis?
Let the it harden for 24 hours then you can remove the stick, trim if necessary, and what I do is tie it on to the inside wall of the cage with a thread -- tie securely to top and bottom of the stick. Poke the thread through the netting at appropriate height -- I'd say approximately 8" or higher.

In my experience, they eclose (emerge) in about 10 days. Keep it in the warmest area to hasten the process, or in a cooler area to slow it down. (e.g. Upstairs is usually warmer than downstairs, sunny rooms are warmer, up on high shelf, etc... Whereas down on the floor is cooler, same room as thermostat is closest to the set temp.)

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No, I wasn't surprised because I'd seen the website photos. But the silken thread holding him on is really cool when viewed in person.

Should I be concerned that he has looked the same as in the last photo for a good 12 hours already? No change/chrysalis formation yet.

I have him in the warmest room of the house; a thermometer on a shelf there reads 80 degrees this morning, but I'm not sure how accurate it is. Is that warm enough to speed things up? I can open the blinds to let the afternoon sun in to raise the temp.

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Thanks for the info and websites! We have 9 of these little guys! I'm wondering if they will be ok on the dill...or if I should put some sticks in the garden for them? The dill that they are on (most of them anyway) is pretty large and sturdy. I think I'll put sticks right next to the dill plants they are on so they can choose.

Again...thanks for all the info!

Caroline
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I think you should be OK for awhile. With so many little guys (or gals), it should be fun to see them interact. My cat's twin died (my fault) so I only had one. If you leave them outside, uncovered, be prepared to lose some to birds, etc., per the earlier post. I put row cover over mine (using the sticks as the foundation), but he still sneaked out one day and nearly drowned!

Here's what my cat looked like last night, after finally pupating (took just over 24 hours from the time he first attached himself to the stick). This morning the chrysalis is more dry and shriveled, but I still think he didn't shed ALL of his skin. What do you all think?

p.s. Does anyone else see a "face" in the stick he's on? To me it looks like an old man scowling at him!

[img]https://i989.photobucket.com/albums/af14/lmkingwall1251/Samiformshischrysalis_July1007_crop.jpg[/img]

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Yep...I noticed the face right away! :)

Mine haven't started that process yet. They are still busy eating the dill. It's really quite amazing to watch them eat. They can strip a dill plant in no time at all! Glad I planted plenty of dill! :)
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I'd be anxious to see any photos you can take of your cats. Good luck with them. And thanks to all for the info and encouragement in getting this first BS raising experience under my belt. I believe I am a convert for life!

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Keep us posted! :D

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Applestar, I took your advice and bought a pop-up hamper from Walmart ($9 and change, including tax and free shipping), which is 1-1/2 times as wide and 2x as tall as the butterfly habitat. It will be perfect for multiple cats/butterflies. Caroline, if you want to bring your cats inside, here's where to find it:
https://www.walmart.com/ip/Whitmor-Collapsible-Laundry-Hamper/9720304#ProductDetail

I'm going to find a smaller herb planter, transplant one or two of the parsley plants (come to think of it, do BS butterflies eat parsley, or just lay their eggs on it?), along with the stick on which the BS is pupating right now. I'll anchor the stick in the soil of the planter for greater stability, rather than attach it to the hamper mesh with thread.

I'll take photos once I get it set up, and again when the BS ecloses (if I'm still in town).

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The butterfly, when it ecloses, will need nectar. You can pick fresh flowers and put in a jar of water, or make a sugar/water solution (same as hummingbirds, 1 part sugar to 4 parts water) or provide tropical melon flavored Gatorade. I use a small jar lid and cottonball. Some people feeding large quantities to lots of butterflies use a nylon kitchen scrubbie in a bowl.

I don't remember the precise life span of BS (it's probably in one of your links -- I haven't had the chance to look through them all yet :wink:) -- but they don't live as long as Monarchs for certain. So don't keep them inside for longer than a couple of days.

With Monarchs, we give them about 8 hours for the wings to dry/stiffen, then we move them to a holding cage to take out to a small screen tent. 24+ hours after eclosing, when the wings are fully dry, we tag them (attach a small numbered sticker on a designated part of the wing) and release them.

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Do you know what kinds of flowers they like the best?

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[img]https://i989.photobucket.com/albums/af14/lmkingwall1251/Samiemerges_July11001_cropped.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i989.photobucket.com/albums/af14/lmkingwall1251/Samiemerges_July11002_cropped.jpg[/img]

It happened! The swallowtail eclosed either late last night or early this morning. We were asleep, so didn't get to see it, unfortunately, but the thrill of seeing that he made it out was enough for this first-timer! It was exactly 10 days from chrysalis formation to eclosing, inside, at an average temp of 84 degrees (if that will help any other BS raisers out there).

We awoke about 7 to find him hanging on his branch. He barely made a hole in his chrysalis, just kinda popped the top off like it was a convertible auto. It is 3 hours later and he has moved to the top of the mesh "cage," hanging upside down and every once in a while spreading his wings. We don't know exactly when he eclosed, so we're wondering why he hasn't made a beeline for the sugar water or the fresh peonies I put in there this morning. Does anyone out there know how long he needs to dry his wings before he will start to eat?

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Hooray!!! :clap:

Congratulations, you did it! :D Is it a boy or a girl? I still have trouble telling from the underwings. It's easier when you can see the upperwing coloration.

Butterfly wings are fragile when they first eclose. They pump fluid into the veins which form the "umbrella ribs" if you will. They also usually "splat" -- there's an official term (that's not it :wink:) -- and excrete excess fluid when they're done. With Monarchs the splat is usually bloody red, and scary for first timers.

Don't worry, the butterfly will know when it's ready to fly -- depends on temperature, sun, humidity, etc. I like to put a bouquet of different flowers in the cage so they'll have a choice. Typically, they prefer flowers that have lots of tiny flowers on a stalk. Lavender and mint, and clover are usually popular, as are daisy family flowers like cosmos, zinnias and asters, and of course, butterfly bush. I also have Summer Sweet that get high points too.

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Lots of tiny flowers on a stalk describes the phlox I put in the cage, in addition to a coneflower (the bees love them) and sugar water. So far he's turned his little proboscis (sp?) up at everything. We put the entire cage outside, thinking he would dry out faster in the sun. He is already flapping his wings and extending them. Does that mean he is ready to be released?

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When he extends his wings we can see upper and lower wings/extensions. What should we look for to determine the gender?

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Females have wide blue band and males have wide yellow band on the hind (lower) wings. :D

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[img]https://i989.photobucket.com/albums/af14/lmkingwall1251/Samiemerges_July11008_cropped.jpg[/img]

Based on your description, I'm assuming our BS is a she. This shot was taken just before she took off. I rechecked another site (https://melanys.tripod.com/black_swallowtail.htm) which said, "It takes only a couple of hours to dry the wings before it is ready to fly. So, even though I was sad to see her go, I decided that she'd been in the cage longer than needed, that she wasn't going to eat anything I left for her, and that she just wanted to get out and on with the business of living her (too) short life.

It took just a second for her to realize the cage was open, and then she took off like a shot and was in the neighbors yard before I could blink. Wow, she's fast! I just hope she remembers the good care we gave her, and returns to lay her eggs in the same parsley patch she was raised on. That would be something, huh?!

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My turn! Have about 6 little buggers munching away on one parsley pot. I don't have enough parsley to keep them going, and will have to get something else for them. I will check for carrots with tops at the farmers market this afternoon. I think we have pop-up laundry hampers at Walgreens, where I will be today.

I have has the BS on parsley before, they ate, grew, ate, grew etc, then no sign. Not sure if birds found them or what. This time will be more vigilant.
Have fun!
Susan

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You'll do great! Good luck! :D

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Just returned from a week out of town, and my new parsley is filling in nicely where the BS ate half the first crop, but still no signs of any more little ones. Hope they come soon, as I feel more confident fostering summer "litters" than the ones that overwinter.

Keep up the great work, Susan, and please share any photos you take.

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This is a helpful thread. I just discovered about 20 or more of these caterpillars on my two dill plants. There will not be enough food for them so I will try feeding them carrot tops. I wondered why there wasn't much in the way of leaves on the dill. I don't have enough carrots though to feed them all.

update: a fellow gardener who raises BS came over and took about half of the caterpillars. She has lots of food for them.

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Update! There are 6 -7 in one pot (3 mid sized parsleys), and I just saw one on another. That one will be moved to join the others. I have enough parsley to go for awhile, but those things EAT!!!! 24-7.

I did see I can get carrots with tops at the farmers market, may need a bunch by next week. Also Walgreens carries pop-up laundry hampers. If you are looking, are in the laundry section, and often on a side panel towards the back of store. If my little critters keep growing and thriving, may opt for the 2 hampers/$6, and get my little employee discount! See it now, check out, clerk comments, doing laundry? No, just caterpillars.... (they know I am a bit different anyway!!)

More later....
Have fun!
Susan

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I haven't seen them since I moved to MN (is the Twin Cities too far north for them?), but I used to raise them when I live in south-east WI. It was cute to watch them feed on dill at their larger sizes. They'd have to lift the thin leaves up to eat them as their weight bent it over.

As far as the green/brown pupa mentioned on the first page, I never could find a difference. Some brown ones could eclose in a couple weeks and some green ones waited until the next spring. Keeping them over the winter I found the toughest, because I had to remember when they were ready to emerge to let them out. Yes, the one in the picture is a female. Another way to tell is to look at the tip of the abdomen. The female will have a more rounded tip and an opening at the bottom (to lay eggs). The male has a more pointed end and it opens more like a slit (to grasp onto the mate.) The same is true for monarchs and other butterflies.
Please excuse some of my typos. My keyboard has a busted spacebar.

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Thanks for the additional info. We butterfly lovers have to stick together!

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Last count 10! I am sure more will show their faces, or funny little bodies munching along parsley leaves. I have seen the adults around the flowers, so no surprise there are babies.
Have fun!
Susan

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8) I suggest you sow some more parsley and dill :wink:
You might actually have enough time before frost for fall crop of carrots too.

I found that the (surviving) parsley will overwinter and produce tons of flowers that attract beneficial Garden Patrol next season. (Did you see my protected cabbage thread? Can't find the link at the moment) :roll: ...I know it's kind of contradictory to want the butterflies AND the beneficials at the same time. That's why, though, we bring eggs and caterpillars indoors to raise at our house. :D

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More on these. Got a couple of pop-up laundry hampers at Walgreens. Opened one and and put one pot in, with a tray under pot. At least 6 buggers eating non-stop 24/7. I wanted to have them in some protection from birds, and they are getting big and flashy! I added a couple of parsley sprigs from another plant.
Have fun!
Susan

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O:) :bouncey:
You can solve all your problems in a garden/laboratory.

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I am beginning to feel like a full time foster mom going mad!
So I have a mess of these, and moving them around to different pots that have food. Had several in the pop-up hamper with a pot with 3 parsleys, then put in a little small necked bottle with water and cut parsley from other pots. I thought it decent, perhaps Holiday Express. Several leaving dodge thinking it was Motel 6.
So I moving them around, watching.
In this, one was getting big, and I had left it on a small parsley. went for an errand, not 1 hr later came home and it be gone! Had 2 others getting big, enough parsley for now, and put a couple of sticks in the pots. Gone!
Another getting big and I put it in good plant. Gone!
Going around and checking, re-checking, saw the last one mentioned had traveled, as in pilgrimage and found a dead little branch. I moved that to a place I can watch.

In an errand to the store, got some organic carrots with tops. I checked the bunch of parlsey, may not be real fresh, from Mexico. Washed off a couple of tops, put in little water jar and moved a couple of juveniles there. Thinking they may adjust to different diet better than near full grown!

Is it something good or off kilter when 10 caterpillars start ruling your life!

Thanks for listening. You people understand and I appreciate that!
Susan
Have fun!
Susan

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