Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly Emerges from Chrysalis


A few weeks ago I told you an Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar had formed a chrysalis in my garden. I checked on it several times a day since then, and frankly, I was worried. As of Thursday, July 7, there was still no change and I was afraid it had died. Then on Friday, July 8 – nineteen days after the chrysalis formed – it looked completely different; I could clearly see the folded wings of the butterfly inside.

Within minutes of this discovery, I saw an antenna pop out. I quickly called my husband to come to the garden and we watched, riveted, as a brand new butterfly emerged from the chrysalis. It was an emotional experience like watching a baby being born – I was in tears. It took around five minutes for the creature to free himself. Once he was out and completely unfurled we could see it was a male – they have more prominent yellow markings on their wings.

The swallowtail climbed up the stem to the top of the plant he emerged on and stayed there overnight. Today he was still in the garden, flitting back and forth on the "milkshake" coneflowers (echinacea) and milkweed (aka butterfly weed), and then back to his "home base" plant. He is also spending time on the curly parsley, where lo and behold, there are more swallowtail caterpillars. Most of them are very young – still black with the white band across their belly (first instar stage) – but a few have matured to where you can see their stripes (fourth instar stage).

So far the caterpillars are feeding on the curly parsley and ignoring the flat Italian parsley (which is fine by me, I use the latter a lot more in my recipes). They like to eat dill too, so now that I am aware of their presence I left some for them in the area with all of the flowers, and moved some to opposite side of the garden for me. I’m sure they’ll find it eventually, but for now it’s my personal stash.

By the way, can any of you identify the plant the butterfly is on in all of the photos – not the flowers, the taller leafy one. I purchased it last year for a quarter; at the time it was just a stick with dried leaves on it (I always buy dead plants – I feel bad for them). I thought it might be a butterfly bush or clematis, but now I suspect it is just a weed. No matter – it's thriving and I like it and the butterfly does too. I'm just curious as to what it is.

I am thrilled that my husband and I got to observe the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly's metamorphosis; we agree it was one of the coolest things we've ever witnessed.

All photos ©Glamorosi 2011

UPDATE: I found out what the mystery plant is:
Mystery Plant Revealed

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