Raising swallowtail butterflies is such an amazing experience. Swallowtail butterflies are usually hesitant to remain in one place when I’m around, so raising the caterpillars is one way to get an up-close look.
We found our swallowtail caterpillars on our dill and Queen Anne’s Lace around our home. We kept them in jars covered with paper napkins that we had punched a few holes in. If you have cheesecloth or other loosely woven material that would work as well. You can use rubber bands to secure the material. We cleaned their jars and fed them fresh dill each day. They also like carrot tops, Queen Anne’s Lace, fennel, and parsley. Ours seemed to prefer the dill, though, so that’s what we gave them.
It didn’t take very long before the first one formed a chrysalis. Before it formed the chrysalis, the caterpillar attached itself to a small twig and hung motionless for twenty-four hours.
I found it fascinating that each swallowtail caterpillar formed a chrysalis that matched the stick that it was on. According to Living with Insects, “Caterpillars have photo receptors (stemmata) with pigments that presumably can detect the surrounding color when it starts to pupate. The color triggers or inhibits the release of a hormone that controls pupal coloration.”
Unlike monarchs, swallowtails are not on a strict time table. They may stay anywhere from 10-20 days, or they may decide to overwinter if winter is approaching. Our first one stayed in its chrysalis 10 1/2 days. If it’s getting colder in your area, you need to keep your swallowtails outside so that they don’t emerge when it’s too cold for them to survive.
When it emerged, we kept it inside for a few hours. The butterfly will need a good place to hang upside down during this time while its wings are drying. Then we took it outside and put it on a bush near our front porch. We enjoyed observing it and taking pictures for about an hour before it flew away.
It looks like we have a female, because they have more blue on their wings than the males.
I’m so thankful for this opportunity to observe these beautiful butterflies up close.
If you have any questions, here’s a more detailed post that might answer them: How to Raise Eastern Swallowtail Butteflies.
After we released our first butterfly, we made journal pages about our experience using pressed Queen Anne’s Lace to make transfers for the background. You can read more about it here: Queen Anne’s Lace Prints Journal Pages.
If you decide to raise swallowtail butterflies, let us know how it went!