Black Swallowtail Visitor, Caterpillar, and Eggs, probably

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)July 5, 2014

In my front yard today I noticed a raggedy swallowtail with most of the lower parts of her body torn away. I use the 'red eye' at the base of a black swallowtail's hindwings to identify it, so I couldn't be sure, but something said black swallowtail about this butterfly. So, I checked the rue nearby, didn't find anything, then went outside to check the rue in the garden and found a caterpillar, several instars along. I looked for more, but couldn't find any. I went in the house, stayed a while, and when I came back out, I looked again. I'm pretty sure I've found an egg on the rue in the front yard, and several on some wild chervil in a bed in the front yard. BST eggs are so small, I'm not absolutely positive these are eggs. I ordered and planted wild chervil last year, thinking it might be a host for black swallowtails, being in the carrot family. Its leaves are wider than what BSTs eat when they eat dill or fennel, and I was hoping it would hold up in the heat of summer, which dill and rue don't, at least not down here. The wild chervil has indeed held up, maybe too well. I've found out too late that it's considered invasive. It has spread (through seeds) all around the bed, so I may live to regret having planted it, but if it makes a good host plant for black swallowtails, it'll be worth pulling up some unwanted volunteers.

I tried to make a picture of what I think are eggs, but the camera wouldn't focus clearly on them. This new camera has a great zoom, but its macro setting is no better than the other cheaper point and shoots I've owned.


Here's the caterpillar -

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Cool I haven't seen any black swallowtails this year.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 8:37PM
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I have had several Black Swallowtail this spring. I watched a fresh beautiful one yesterday for hours trying to get a good picture while she laid eggs on my dill and fennel. I have dozens of cats of all stages on my dill without seeing the butterfly lay eggs. She was so beautiful with her black and blue I wish I could get a good picture of her, she did return this morning. I am hoping she was one of the first cats that has eclosed to lay eggs. I really feel like I have made a difference just planting dill and fennel this spring. I have watched several crawl across my bermuda lawn to the side of my house, wishing I could help them find the right place to Chrysalis. This has really been a learning experience this year for me.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 10:44PM
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I saw one yesterday trying to get through the netting to lay on my carrots. I tried to direct her to the Queen Ann's Lace nearby.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 10:49PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

My sister was trying to reclaim her garden path from the self seeded fennel sprouts and discovered her "weeds" were covered in BST cats. So, knowing I would beat her if she pulled another twig, she will be re routing her path around the fennel. LOL

I, of course, have a minuscule 24" fennel plant and a slightly larger parsley, despite several years of wintersowing and direct seeding thousands of seeds. I also have a singular dill sprout from this year's wintersowing. None of them have been discovered by the BST ELFs, yet. Ahhhh, patience is a virtue.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 10:12AM
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alex928 Z8/LA

I had a large pot of parsley on a picnic bench in the backyard since last year that didn't see a single BST caterpillar until it was well into the flowering stage, wouldn't you know. I was starting to think it wasn't going to happen, so I was a bit surprised to come outside one day and find caterpillars on it. I wound up getting more parsley and bringing two of them inside (I had never raised any inside before and didn't want to overdo it). Currently one of the two is in fourth instar (I think...I'm a little iffy on instars), and the bigger one has already assumed the J-position and will be pupating soon. The five outside seem to have lucked out with the predators so far. Well, down to four now...the biggest one seems to have finally wandered off somewhere.

This post was edited by alex928 on Sun, Jul 6, 14 at 11:20

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 11:17AM
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I saw my first black swallowtail today. Also my first monarch! Last year I saw exactly one, count 'em one, monarch all season, and it was a straggler at the end of migration in October. They were fluttering around the cleome in my garden. I'm not sure cleome is terribly good as a nectar flower. It volunteered in my yard and it is too pretty to just rip out, especially since the deer leave it alone.

I will have to check the parsley, dill, and rue in the yard for eggs. I can't let them eat the rue! I just wintersowed it this year and it's about 2 inches high.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 12:57PM
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Will Rue grow in Zone 4?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 6:39PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I don't know if rue will grow up your way or not, John. But you can always try it and see.

It sounds like most of you have seen black swallowtails or have eggs and/or cats now. I haven't raised any black swallowtails in several years, so I'm excited about raising these. I say these, because I've been checking the rue and the chervil, and I'm almost positive those little bitty white round things are eggs.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 7:51PM
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Congrats on your treasure trove, Sherry :)


    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 12:48AM
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alex928 Z8/LA

Crud, I think one of the outside caterpillars is dying. It was wandering earlier, but now it's been lying on the picnic table since last night with its little scent horns permanently out. It did react slightly when I nudged it, so it's still alive, or at least it was when I last checked. I don't know what's wrong though, since the others seem OK so far, at least the ones that are left.

Meanwhile, I just discovered one of the other ones pupating on the underside of the picnic table. I've occasionally seen wasps flying around under there, so I'm not holding out a ton of hope, but you never know.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 11:48AM
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Congrats on the caterpillar and eggs, Sherry. I don't know why you wouldn't get more where you live.

Funny how things change from year to year. This year I've had luck with black swallowtails, staring early on and now I've got dozens of eggs and lots of cats. I did have the property treated for ants this year, so perhaps that's been a factor.

I seem to remember that rue like very well drained soil and some shade. I have two of these in pots; so far they have grown some, and now have cats on them. I know at least two cats are black swallowtails, I think one might be a Giant.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 12:07PM
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Have fun with your black swallowtails, Sherry. I certainly enjoyed raising black swallowtails last summer in my maiden voyage as caterpillar mommy! They are beautiful butterflies, but of course you get many beautiful butterflies in your yard. I loved your picture of the variegated fritillary. I have never seen fritillaries of any kind, although I have tons of violets in my yard.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 1:47PM
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