|Earlier this summer I planted a flower garden with lantana, butterfly
bush, and parsley with the hope that I would be able to find another caterpillar to
take to school for my library students to watch as it went through the metamorphasis
stages. I saw a black swallowtail butterfly lay eggs on my parsley one Monday
morning. I didn't have a camera at the time to get a picture of the butterfly, but
here is a picture of a few of her eggs.
||In about two days the eggs hatched, but I couldn't find the caterpillars.
I was so disappointed, but after two more days I found several tiny caterpillars.
They were black with a narrow white band around their middles making them look like
caterpillar feces--a great example of protective camoflage.
|After two or three molts of their skin (maybe three days), they began to
be more colorful. We counted at least ten caterpillars on the parsley the day this
picture was taken.
||After more than a week they were quite colorful, but there were only two
left. We had to be away for six dayson a trip. Hurricane Charley passed over
our neighborhood while we were away. (Fortunately he passed more gently in South
Carolina than in Florida.) We can only guess that the rest of the caterpillars might
have been eaten, they might have crawled off to make their pupae, or Charley may have
blown them away.
|Notice the red "horns" or osmeterium on this caterpillar's head.
When something bothers or frightens the caterpillar these osmeterium extend
themselves from it's head giving off an objectionable scent that frightens the preditor
||I kept one caterpillar at home and took the other one to school. The
caterpillar that was left at home in a jar changed into a pupa. Notice that the pupa
is attached to the stick at the "tail" end and it's head end points upward.
It is also supported by a web-like thread that serves as a sling to support the
weight of the pupa.
|The caterpillar that I took to school was unable to form a pupa due to the
design of the "butterfly tower" I had to put it in. The tower has fabric
sides with a solid circular top and bottom. I had placed a short stick in a mug at
the bottom of the tower, but the caterpillar persisted in climbing the sides to the top.
The only way the caterpillar could attach itself to the ceiling forced it to hang
upside-down. The caterpiller hung there until it died. It did not form a pupa.
||Meanwhile the pupa at home continues to darken as it awaits the day it
will hatch into a swallowtail butterfly.
|The butterfly hatched this morning (9/4/04). I made a cage out of a
cardboard box with netting over the large holes I cut in the box. Unfortunately for
me (but I'm sure the butterfly feels differently about it) the butterfly disappeared when
Dave went out the door. He took this picture when the butterfly was still stretching
and drying its wings.
||After losing my butterfly, I caught another swallowtail butterfly in a net
so I could test out my butterfly cage and see if the butterfly will gather necter from the
flowers I put in the box for it. So far it has only stayed on the sides as if it
were trying to get out. Perhaps the larger cage at school will make a difference.