Saturday, June 03, 2023

New Swallowtails

Eastern Black Swallowtail
Papilio polyxenes

As we have done every season, Jody gifts me caterpillars from her garden and I raise them. I only received two Eastern Black Swallowtails last summer from her, though. (Come to find out, she gave dozens to kids in her neighborhood in order to raise awareness and curiosity.) I was not hopeful that my two would survive the winter. The enclosure got knocked over by unknowing people in the winter, causing one chrysalis harness to break so that it was lying on the enclosure floor. Like Monarchs, the black swallowtails are supposed to eclose head up so that they can successfully pump their wings with fluid from their abdomen. I have read that if that does not happen, they do not survive. I could have repaired it, but the chrysalis grew fuzz, so I assumed it was infected with something and would not survive.

Amy came today and told me I had a butterfly. It was the broken harness butterfly. We took him out into the sunshine, photographed it, and set it free. It soon flew away to a new life. 

Swallowtail #1 (also male) is held by Amy and shaded by me.

Amy and I then ran errands at the pharmacy, gas station, metal recycling, bottle recycling, and a store where we ended up chatting with the owners. When I returned home, the other swallowtail had eclosed! What to do? It threatened rain and was cold. After a very hot three days, our temperatures have sunk to a high of 59° today and will be colder tomorrow. That is not butterfly weather! I couldn't keep it, either, because I am not able to feed it. I let it pump its wings up and dry off and then the sun came out. Lucy and I immediately went outside for photos and release. It settled on bedstraw and orientated itself to the sun for warmth and to finish drying, which is the first photo. 

A swallowtail still in the enclosure displaying its beautiful underwing.

I texted Jody with the photos and she reported that her neighbors had five eclose yesterday: four males and one female. I still have two unknown cocoons: one from this spring that a student gave me, and one from last year. I doubt either will eclose, but I will hang on to them. 

Swallowtail 2 was lively and walked up my sweater.



  1. Eastern Swallowtails are so beautiful

  2. I am pleased they did come to life this Spring! I had none over winter and only a couple of caterpillars early on that survived and flew away by August. I'm not having much luck with parsley plants this year, so I am not hopeful to get any babies.

  3. Hooray for the survivors! I've never raised butterflies, if i see a cocoon, i leave it alone believing the critters knows better than i do what it's doing. It must be a joyful thing to see them emerge.

  4. Butterfllies are just so beautiful and look perfectly hand painted.

  5. Wow, those swallowtails are beautiful! I think we had these occasionally in our yard growing up (suburbs north of NYC).


Thank you for visiting and for your comments!