20 May 2014

Our Black Swallowtail Butterflies: A Timeline of Their Life Cycle

Now that we've released three Black Swallowtail butterflies into the big wide world (and the second graders at school have released more than that), I thought it would be fun to look back over the time they've spent with us, and document the timeline from the egg discover to the first release.

We found the eggs and the first caterpillars on April 21, 2014.  (My post about it:  The Black Swallowtail Dilemma)

Since I read that only one in one hundred butterfly eggs makes it all the way to butterfly adulthood, we rescued the caterpillars from predators, sharing some with second grade and keeping a few protected at home.  We continued to watch their growth.  (My post about it:  Black Swallowtail Caterpillars)

It was more difficult than I expected to mark the transition between instar stages; we simply ended up enjoying watching them gradually change and grow.

By May 3, we had our first chrysalises.  Three were green, three were brown.  In the second grade classroom at school, my husband tells me the colors seemed to be location specific.  That is, all the green ones were on one type of terrain, and all the brown ones were on another.  (My post about it:  A Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Makes a Chrysalis {With Video})

On May 13, our first butterfly hatched!  From the day we found the first caterpillars and eggs, to the day of the first hatch, was three weeks and one day.  I let the beauty go out into the neighborhood on the morning of May 14.  (My post about it:  A Black Swallowtail Emerged)

So would we do it again?  Absolutely!  Even though it did end up ruining my best dill patch ever, the whole process has been a delight to watch.  In fact, we truly are doing this again.  The other day, my husband found the tiniest of caterpillars on a parsley plant out back, and we simply didn't have the heart to save the parsley.  Just one this time, so far, but he's already pretty fun to watch.

We'll try some more parsley and another dill patch come fall.


  1. Did you take photos of the chrysalises & the hatching? I'd love to see them. That video was pretty cool, although it made me all squeamish -- sorry! I'm like that, pretty squeamish with living things, that's why I didn't go be a biologist, nurse or doctor. ;-) Still fascinating.

  2. If I get to see the moment of hatching, I will do my best to get a video! They've all hatched so quickly that I haven't seen it happen yet.


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