Friday, August 23, 2013

Raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies

One of the most fun projects our family did this summer was something we just happened into without even planning it.  I'm so glad it did happen though because we all had a great time learning more about caterpillars.

One day while playing outside, my bug-loving son Andrew discovered a bunch of little caterpillars on the dill weed we had planted in a pot on our front porch.  This year was the first year we have ever grown dill.  Friends on Facebook were able to identify the caterpillars as Black Swallowtail.  Andrew collected four of the caterpillars in a large plastic peanut butter jar and I researched what to feed them.  

The caterpillars grew quickly on a diet of dill and parsley.  It was just like the book "The Hungry Caterpillar"!  I would put a bunch the herbs in there at night and come back in the morning to find the herbs all gone and the caterpillars visibly bigger.  After a few days, we moved two of the fat guys to a second peanut butter jar.  

Another suprising aspect was the amount of poop these buggers produced.  I had to take the caterpillars out of the jars daily and dump the poop outside!  

When it was time to leave on our vacation, the caterpillars were still binging and growing and we didn't want to miss out on what would happen next so we decided to take them along with us on the car ride to Minnesota.  We prepared by picking a bag of parsley and dill from the herb garden at Minnetrista.  When we stopped at an oasis on the freeway in Chicago, we even took the caterpillars inside with us so they wouldn't overheat.

The caterpillars safely reached Minnesota and finally turned themselves into chrysalises.  After about 1 1/2 weeks, they emerged as butterflies and we released them. 

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