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Black Swallowtail Caterpillar – Provoked

Black swallowtail butterfly caterpillar

I think the black swallowtail butterfly caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) is really pretty and I have never complained that it eats so much of my dill. How unlike the  Giant swallowtail butterfly caterpillar I showed yesterday. However they both have the forked osmeterium that they exhibit when they are provoked and alarmed. It  sends out a bad smell to discourage predators. I got to see what I thought was a forked tongue when I was trying to put my caterpillar into a jar, but when I wanted him to perform for my husband by poking him (gently) he remained cool. Or shy. I don’t know which.

What I learned. There is more than one type of swallowtail. I should have known that. What are the odds there is only one type? And I learned each variety has a different range (understandable) and slightly different appearance in each stage of development. Male and female also have slightly different markings. So much more to learn.

Thank you to Wikipedia for the photo.

5 comments to Black Swallowtail Caterpillar – Provoked

  • Thanks for sharing. I haven’t had this type of caterpillar in my yard yet (that I can tell). So they eat herbs like dill, anything else? Are you able to watch them transform into butterflies?

  • Pat

    Melissa – In my garden these caterpillars only eat dill but they are supposed to like parsley too. I have never seen a chrysalis and my eyes don’t work fast enough to ID the different swallowtails. I am glad there are more butterflies this year.

  • What a cool photo, Pat! I’ve never seen this catt with horns before–he looks downright evil:) You’re so right about butterflies–the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.

  • Pat

    Rose – I can’t take credit for this photo, but I couldn’t get ‘my’ catt to stick out his osmeterium for the camera.

  • Wonderful picture. And I’m very impressed by how scary-looking that caterpillar can make himself.

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