August 5, 2021
These are black swallowtail caterpillars. Their eggs hatch this time of year, revealing young larvae (instars) who emerge and begin to feed. These caterpillars will feast on parsley, dill, fennel and carrots. The yellowish-green caterpillars are in the larval stage and its body is transverse with black bands and yellow or orange spots. They have little “horns” that act as their scent organs. The horns also function as a predator-deterrent as birds think they are inedible. The pupa, or chrysalis, appears dull gray and mottled with black and brown and are about 1.25 inches long.
The female caterpillars are slightly larger than males and are a little duller in color than their male swallowtails. They can have a wingspan up to 3 inches. Both male and female are velvety black in color with tailed hind wings marked with peacock-like eyes. These pupae overwinter attached to stems or fallen leaves and emerge as butterflies in April or May starting their life cycle all over again.
These caterpillars turn into pollinators, helping the life cycle of all plants in our food systems and to help beautify our world. So, we want them to survive and thrive. You can do something as simple as planting parsley, dill, fennel and carrots in your garden to provide a food source for the caterpillars. In addition, try planting flowers to provide nectar for the adult butterflies.
For more detailed information: https://wimastergardener.org/article/black-swallowtail-papilio-polyxenes/
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