Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar at Raccoon Creek State Park

Our Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar (larva) is passing this August 17th morning slowly and methodically eating the leaves of Queen Anne’s Lace and other member of the carrot family.

This behavior began when the sun’s morning rays began to warm-up this wildflower bed, just at the edge of a regularly cut roadside. This caterpillar followed standard behavior, eating for 1.5 hours, and then moving down toward the ground and … out of sight for the remainder of the hot day.

Bedecked in greens, yellows and black, you have to wonder why this chubby, presumably tasty morsel can remain in full sight of so many potential predators, and yet remain unbothered? Though the adult butterfly is thought to be a mimic of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, their larva look totally different from one another. Then, too, adult Papilio Polyxenes usually have intact wings. No bit and pieces missing from predator attacks. So how do we explain the seeming protecia?

Frequent visitors to wingedbeauty.com see that we haven’t posted very many larval photos? We photograph only wild butterflies and most of our work is produced in wild habitat. Caterpillars are rarely seen there. After having spent thousands of hours afield, we can only share that butterfly larva are masters of camouflage and we are still working to attune our eyes to the subtleties that need to be honed-in on to spot them.

How will this individual spend the winter at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania…? In its chrysalis. Neat, huh?

Jeffrey

5 thoughts on “Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

  1. Nice shot. I discovered many of these at the Botanical Gardens a few days ago. I have a few photos of them, but the sun was bright and I didn’t know how to get a good shot. Managed by accident to get one that I like. I’m going back tomorrow to see what stage they are in, if they’re still there. They ate almost the entire plant, which I think is Fennel.

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  2. We’ve got dozens of these black swallowtail larvae in the garden now, happily munching away on parsley and carrot greens. I’ve moved a few of them into a butterfly tent to protect them from lizards and birds. Here in Athens, Georgia, I expect they’ll get to fly before it gets too cold.

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  3. Nice picture. I have not seen any caterpillars this year in my back yard. Had about a dozen Monarch caterpillars two summers ago. Photographed them one day and by late afternoon the large birds had evidently devoured them. I will post a picture or two on Facebook today.

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