Backyard Adventures

Courtyard Visitor-Eastern Black Swallowtail


  I was thrilled to have some butterfly visitors this summer. Most of the larval plants, which the butterflies seek out to lay their eggs on, are weeds so I chose not to introduce them into my new garden. I did, however, plant a large pot of parsley and dill in the hopes of attracting the eastern black swallowtail.

On July 19th, I spotted a black swallowtail flying in the courtyard. I grabbed my camera and got some photos of the butterfly ovipositing on the parsley plant.





I found this greenish-yellow egg on the parsley after she flew away.


The caterpillar chews it’s way out of the egg in about 5-9 days and then proceeds to feed on the parsley. A week or two later I looked for the early stages of the caterpillar but couldn’t find it. The children and grandchildren were visiting that week. I asked Sarah’s assistance to hunt for the caterpillar. She exclaimed she had given Aerin & Jacob sprigs of parsley to eat and hoped they hadn’t downed the egg in the process! Luckily, I spotted the caterpillar about a week later, already a pretty good size, with it’s distinctive yellow and black stripes.







As the caterpillar grew and was less capable of hiding itself, I moved the pot inside so the caterpillar wouldn’t become prey to a bird.


Caterpillars make a mess!!


In the wild the caterpillars usually leave the plant to form a chrysalis in a sheltered spot nearby. Because it was confined, the caterpillar formed the chrysalis right on the parsley plant. The caterpillar spins a silken belt around itself to anchor it to the stem.

The caterpillar formed a chrysalis on August 17th .

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It generally takes about 9 to 14 days before the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. I was hoping to observe this miraculous transition but I left on a trip to California on day 10 and the butterfly decided to take it’s time. It emerged on August 31st. Thank you to my friend Larry Lynch who tended the chrysalis and took the following photos. You can see how the chrysalis darkens before the butterfly emerges.







My courtyard garden certainly doesn’t have the visibility of an open field or our Lakeville backyard. How did the black swallowtail find it’s way to my courtyard ? Whether it was the beautiful nectar plants, the availability of it’s larval food (parsley), my burning desire to attract butterflies, or Dick’s spirit guiding the butterflies my way…. is a mystery. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these. But I am grateful that we once again have a little haven for my butterfly friends.

You can read more about the Eastern Black Swallowtail in my blog of July 2013 under Recent Posts. You can also read about different butterflies’ larval plants in my blog of Feb 2012 (New Larval Plant-Hops) and Oct 2012 (Monarch Butterfly) under Archives.