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LIFE CYCLE OF A BLACK SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY


THE MIRACLE OF METAMORPHOSIS

I have been questioned many times about the various stages involved in the metamorphosis of the
Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes). Although not scientific data, I can relate my experiences as I witnessed them.

The host plant for Black Swallowtails is likely to be any of the carrot family such as dill, parsley, fennell and others.
The adult female lays her fertilized eggs (yellow in color) on the host plant and the next generation begins.
One instar after another feeds gregariously on the host plant, shedding it's skin to allow room for growth of
the next instar (four total I believe), until the full grown caterpillar is ready to enter the chrysalis stage.

At this point in the wild, the full grown caterpillar seems to disappear never to be seen again. I confess, I have
never found a BS chrysalis in the wild. I really have no idea where they go but I suspect nearby weedy vegetation where
they can string up and morph into a chrysalis. Others have told me they find them in the garden or attached to a foundation etc.

If you wish to watch the mystery of metamorphosis unfold, you may want to collect the caterpillar when it is in the last instar
and before the birds make a feast of it. I fashioned a 10 gallon fish tank into a rearing chamber using a small window screen
to enclose the open side and still allow airflow through it. Keep fresh host plant readily available for the caterpillar as
it continues it's journey to a butterfly. I place small bare branches, 8-9 inches in length and about the same
girth as a pencil, propped up in the corners to provide a stable place for the cat to "string up". Once it has strung up,
it sheds it's skin for the final time and appears in the pupa stage. Inside that chrysalis during the next 2-3 weeks,
a whole new life is created, the adult butterfly.

I have found that the chrysalis changes to a darker color just before the adult ecloses. This may not always be the case.
Even the colors and pattern of the wings may be visible through the now thinning shell. As eclosing time nears, you will
want to watch it closely as this happens fairly quickly. Under the photos in my slideshow

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORPHING FROM CATERPILLAR TO ADULT BUTTERFLY

you can get an idea of the time lapse. Once the adult has emerged it will cling to the branch near the chrysalis shell
as it pumps fluids to the body and wings. After some time, the wings have dried and the adult is ready to fly.

It is worthy to note that in late summer BS caterpillars will enter diapause for the winter months and
eclose the following year in May/June some 8-9 months later.

Good luck and enjoy the miracle of metamorphosis. counter for blogger

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First Instar Stage
First Instar Stage
Second Instar Stage
Second Instar Stage
Third Instar Stage
Third Instar Stage
Full Grown Caterpillar
Full Grown Caterpillar
Pre-Pupa Stage
Pre-Pupa Stage
Early Pupa Stage
Early Pupa Stage
Late Pupa Stage
Late Pupa Stage
Recently Emerged Butterfly
Recently Emerged Butterfly
Adult Butterfly with Chrysalis Shell
Adult Butterfly with Chrysalis Shell
Black Swallowtail-Male
Black Swallowtail-Male
Black Swallowtail-Female
Black Swallowtail-Female