Black Swallowtail Caterpillar- Inspirational Quote about Growth ByTony Gomez October 8 Find more caterpillar inspiration in your butterfly garden by plantinggiant swallowtails and black swallowtails. rue (Ruta graveolens) Share the Joy of Butterflies1.5KShares
Friends of ours in Georgia told us to plant Rue because it’s an absolute magnet for black swallowtail butterflies. However, here in Michigan, we find that black swallowtails seem to prefer laying their eggs on fennel or dill over rue or parsley.
We love raising monarchs, but by far the most acrobatic caterpillar that we have raised so far is the black swallowtail. When the caterpillars are small they can walk to the end of fennel fronds, then eat their way back to the main stem. However, as they get bigger, the fennel fronds can no longer support their weight. So the caterpillars hold on to a main branch, then twist, turn and even do back bends that any gymnast would be jealous of, just to reach the next fennel frond. It really is amazing to watch.
In our enclosure, we always buy small starter plants of fennel, rue and parsley so that the caterpillars can choose whatever they want to eat. As the caterpillars get bigger, they seem to like to climb as high as possible. Since Rue grows quickly and has nice thick stems, we have found that they typically switch over to Rue as they get bigger.
So if you have ever thought about raising black swallowtails, you should try raising this fascinating caterpillar. Not only are they acrobats, but their appearance changes every time they shed their skin.
It’s also fun to watch the caterpillars when they finish eating and start to wander trying to find the perfect place to make their chrysalis. These caterpillars seem to be on a mission. They take their mission seriously, and will wander for hours and hours and hours. Sometimes I want to take them out of their enclosure to let them do a few laps around the house just to get them to settle down, but eventually they find their perfect spot all on their own.
Thanks for sharing this Brian, I have raised BST’s before on both rue and fennel. Rue is also a host plant for giant swallowtails so I’m hopeful one day to find some GST eggs/cats on ours.
I’m not a huge fan of raising BST’s because the butterflies don’t hang around the garden like monarchs, tiger swallowtails, and red admirals do. We had an explosion of TST’s in the garden this year. Hoping to entice them to lay eggs on chokecherry trees next season…