How To Raise Black Swallowtail Caterpillars
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I began raising butterflies two years ago, with the curiosity of where they went after they were cute little worms, on the fennel plants. A few times, I would be lucky enough to see the mother butterfly lay its egg, and I would collect the egg right afterwards! So, every year, I would go out in my yard, inspect the plants, and one week they were there, the next week…GONE!

I wondered that in the process of creating their chrysalis, perhaps they were eaten. I searched and searched, but I never could find anything. So I decided to put a net around my fennel plants, to keep out the birds. Anyway, American robins would never find a way around that, I thought! Well, it wasn’t ONLY the American robins who were eating the caterpillars. The spiders had discovered the joys of dining on a plump caterpillar too! During the night, they would creep up onto the plant, and catch a caterpillar, and then haul it back to their web. I realized that the only way to keep these caterpillars alive, was to bring them inside. so, I planted multiple fennel plants in buckets, and placed the little wild caterpillars on the plants, and brought them in. I did not realize how hard my job had just become.

Every week, I had to replace the fennel plant, because as the caterpillar grew, it ate more, and more, and more. The fennel plants were reduced to little stubs. I also would replace the soil, because with the shedding skin, and little poops, there was a little smell in there. My caterpillars kept growing. On a few occasions, I would bring them outside, because sun and fresh air is always good. But i realized that it can be fatal to forget a caterpillar outside. It was that very weekend on a beautiful summer day, that I decided my plump (not to mention, looking very healthy) caterpillar, should go outside. But after a few hours of completely forgetting about poor Mr. Caterpillar, I was outside.

I could distinctly smell a pungent smell, of the caterpillar defense mechanism. I followed the smell warily, until I came upon a robin, feasting upon my two caterpillars. It was at that moment that I realized the dangers that any caterpillar faces, unprotected in the wild. Right before the caterpillar decides to form its chrysalis, it needs to search for an adequate place to form. It is interesting that with or without an adequate place, the caterpillar must form its chrysalis. That is why, when on multiple occasions, the caterpillars escaped from their little boxes, I had to go searching for them, and sometimes I would find them on the floor, weaving their chrysalis’ tightly around themselves. Obviously the floor is not the best place to form a chrysalis. And obviously, the caterpillars had ignored the forest of dead twigs I had placed inside their home. They were in exploring mood, before their “moment of darkness”. This is also why the robin was able to eat the caterpillars. Because they were so plump, they were ready to form their chrysalis. And, because I had been so oblivious to the fact that they would, like all caterpillars, be inclined to explore, they had escaped. And, with a bright green skin, they had been easily spotted by a hungry robin. And they were devoured.

For all future caterpillar/black swallowtail caterpillar raisers….Please don’t go into this turning a blind eye. Love your caterpillars, and take care of them. And, try not to forget them outside while you enjoy a nice book inside.

Have a great day


Street Talk

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