Hosting Swallowtails

It started in middle August. There on the garage floor was a dead butterfly. We collected him and put him in a plastic container with a paper towel damp with vinegar and water– in the hopes of loosening him up so he could be pinned. A few days later we found another and pinned them to a single board. We observed them and drew pictures of them. We researched and explored images of other butterflies that we liked. We hung them up so we could see them every day.

About a week later we discovered our first caterpillar at the community garden. It was so lovely, so soft, so colorful and so hungry! During our first encounter we put him back on the parsley and left him, fearing that by bringing him home we might deprive someone else of the pleasure of discovering him. But over night I started to worry that a bird might find him. We decided to go collect him and bring him home. Upon our return, we found him pretty easily then decided to look for more. We found that several locations with parsley and dill all had swallowtail caterpillars! And a friend of ours even found a monarch caterpillar on some milkweed. Joy.

We brought home our new caterpillar and set him up in an old aquarium with a bouquet of parsley and some sticks to attach to once he was ready to form a chrysalis. After about 3 days of chowing and resting he set off to explore a little. He settled onto the bottom side of a stick and became very still. Then slowly he shrunk a bit and 2 tethers developed which allow his upper body to hang away from the stick.

After being so slow and so still, he finally started to wiggle like crazy. We missed most of the shedding, but did catch the final moment of his skin falling away as he wriggled it free. He was green and leafy looking with fine ridges. After another day he turned more brown and sharp in his form. He is still hanging there today. And since that we’ve adopted to more caterpillars who have yet to transform.

We were also able to find a great book at the library about moths and butterflies that has been really useful. We decided to put together our own book of all the drawings and observations we’ve been doing.

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