Black Swallowtail help please

CarlaMGHAugust 7, 2012

Hello! I have searched archives, but really don't know how to word it, so came up empty.

We found some fat, funny green caterpillars on my parsley which I found out are Black Swallowtail Caterpillars. We made them a nice home, have kept them clean and fed for a few days now, and one has gone into chrysalis "mode". Despite my attempts to add branches in hopes it wouldn't attach itself to the lid (which is removable), it attached itself to the lid :-/

I had another full grown caterpillar, and we found a baby also and added it to our home. The other large one that had not yet started to do its thing was on the lid also this morning, and this afternoon upon checking had somehow escaped (no clue how) and was lying on the concrete. After many tears and broken hearts from myself and the kids, I am now frantically trying to see if I have caused trauma to the one that is remaining by removing (CAREFULLY!) and replacing the lid in order to feed the remaining baby.

The one attached has been there, and the silk "belt" has been present since about noon time yesterday. So, a full 24 hours has passed and I don't see any change. I can't find anywhere on the internet that says how long the last molting/shedding process is supposed to take. And I'm afraid I've killed him!

Can anyone help me from their experience? Thank you so much!!!

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also -- question -- from reading posts I keep seeing "lep" what does that mean? thx

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 1:39PM
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Well, in case anyone reads this -- I got confirmation that he/she is still alive! Whew! He moved a little earlier so now we're awaiting the amazing transformation!!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 3:54PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

It usually takes more than 24 hours for the pupating caterpillar to become a chrysalis, CarlaMGH, sometimes up to 48 hours. It sounds like everything is normal with it. I used to put sticks in my cages for the cats to pupate on, and they never used them, preferring the top, the sides, even the undersides of the paper towel to the sticks, so I quit using them. Of course, the sides of my cages aren't slick and it's easy for them to navigate them.
'Lep' is short for lepidoptera which is the scientific group (order, I think) that butterflies and moths belong to. I think I said in a previous post that the biggest lep I'd ever seen was a mostly yellow, huge, female imperial moth - I've never seen a butterfly or moth any bigger than she was.
Out of curiosity, is your caterpillar home a jar? Did you punch air holes in the top?


    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 4:10PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Did your caterpillar pupate okay? You might want to secure your container to make sure that others can't wander out, although I've found that Black swallowtail cats don't usually wander much.

Mine don't usually pupate on the sticks either, unless the sticks have leaves on them. Then, at least half would pupate on the stick under the leaves. Maybe they feel safer if they are hiding under leaves?

Also, their chrysalises are pretty easy to move. Wait at least 24 hours after they pupate for the chrysalis to harden, then you can dislodge the silk threads and tape them to another surface, or a stick. I did that with several chrysalises last fall so I could over winter them in a mesh sleeve.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 7:25PM
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Thank you for your responses! He/she did finally change into the chrysalis (pupate?). I was there when it happened, and got to witness it. It was magnificent! The home is a cardboard box with one side cut out and then screened in with panty hose (it was all I had!) and then a top made out of glass that just sits on there. I had another one that did escape, though I'm not sure how, it's all pretty tight.

I had the plastic mesh on top, which is where the chrysalis formed. But when I still had the other caterpillar, I had to remove the top and replaced it with the glass. I very very very carefully cut out a section of the mesh that the caterpillar is attached to, and then put it back in the cage at an angle that I think would be natural to it. I hope this will work for when it is ready to eclose (fancy terminology, eh? lol) I was relieved to hear it was okay to move them. I don't think I waited quite 24 hours though, but I didn't detach it either, so I hope it will be fine.

Thanks again! I just spotted a mystery caterpillar and took some pictures for ID, and can't find it anywhere on the web. I'm going to post them here to see if anyone knows what it is. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 5:44PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

When I raise caterpillars in containers, I cut pieces of brown paper bag that are the shape and size of the container top and tape those on the inside. When the cats pupate, they attach to the paper and I can take the paper and put it some where convenient to watch for signs they are about to eclose. At one point, I had 30 chrysalis hanging under the kitchen cupboards. If I needed to leave town, I'd just take them out to the deck and attach them to a railing with a staple or nail. Another option is to transfer the later stage cats into a brown paper bag with some host leaves in the bottom. When they pupate, you can cut up the bag and relocate each cat to another convenient spot.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 4:30PM
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