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A Black Swallowtail photo chronicle

17 years ago

A female Eastern Black Swallowtail visited my garden on July 30, located fennel on both sides of the garden and oviposited on several of the plants.

I found about 25 eggs on three plants on one side of the garden. These plants have been growing in this spot since early spring and are all but hidden by larger plants growing around them.

She also left a number of eggs on four new plants on the other side of the garden. She ignored two large bronze fennels and chose, instead, the smaller but more vigorous green fennel plants.

After two days, I collected all of the eggs I could find and brought them inside. The next day I found five more eggs on the new fennel and decided to leave them there.

On the morning of Aug. 3, I noticed changes in the indoor eggs. Some were turning brown, and in some I could see pinpoint dark spots that I think were the tiny caterpillars.

Later that same day, all the eggs had hatched and I had a brood of growing babies. On the outdoor plants, I found five cats, so they all hatched within a few hours of each other. To my eye, the outdoor cats are growing faster than the indoor ones, but it's really impossible to judge without having them side by side.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and I intend to improve the container for the indoor cats. The fennel branches are stuck into wet floral foam in a disposable plastic dish. An empty ice cream bucket is turned upside down over the dish, and the whole thing is wrapped in a muslin cloth to keep out any other insects that might try to get in. Tomorrow I will pull out the glass tank, give it a good cleaning, and transfer the cats to their new home. I hope to get an accurate count at that time as well.

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