Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Caterpillar That Almost Got Cut In Half

Last weekend I went out to the kitchen garden to cut some parsley to go with my dinner. As I am about to snip, I spotted this...

Woah, what a cool looking caterpillar and he came within inches of being cut in half. I had to Google it to see if I could figure out what it was. Turns out it is the adult larvae of a Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes).

When the caterpillars hatch they are brownish purple and white, but when they are older, they look like this guy (or girl).

It turns out that these caterpillars like Queen Ann’s Lace and anything in the carrot family, which includes parsley...hence spotting it on the parsley plant.

Once it is old enough, it will form a chrysalis, a kind of pod-like thing, and it will stay like that through the winter. In the spring it will hatch and become a beautiful black butterfly with a few yellow spots and two red spots towards the inside bottom part of the wings. The butterfly will mate and the female will lay eggs on a host plant (a kind of plant that caterpillars eat). Then the eggs hatch and become another caterpillar like our munching friend and the cycle will continue. According to Wikipedia, the caterpillar “absorbs toxins from the host plants, and therefore tastes poorly to bird predators.” Pretty cool.

Aside from taking a few pictures, I left this funky looking fellow alone and let him munch on the parsley. I have plenty to share with him and any other caterpillar friends he may have.

Go to Wikipedia to learn more and to see photos of this cool cat as a chrysalis and as a butterfly.

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