Every sighting of a butterfly in my Ecosystem Garden is precious this year as very few butterflies seem to be about despite my best efforts of attracting them with native larval host plants.

But last week I discovered a freshly emerged adult Black Swallowtail butterfly posing on my tomato plants as it unfolded its wings, filled them with hemolymph, and readied to take its maiden flight.

Fortunately for me this process takes several hours, and I happily snapped away with my camera.

You can read all about this at Newly Emerged Black Swallowtail Butterfly at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

Then several days after that I found a tiny 1st instar Black Swallowtail caterpillar in my potted dill plants. It’s now a 2nd instar Black Swallowtail caterpillar, and I go out every morning hoping that it’s still there and to photograph its life progression.

Black Swallowtail caterpillars change their appearance with each instar, so I’m really hoping to be able to photograph all 5 of these stages, and then the transformation to chrysalis and then adult butterfly.

Here’s the story so far of the 2nd instar Black Swallowtail Caterpillar.

I’ve been taking photos every day of the Black Swallowtail Caterpillar in my Ecosystem Garden so that I can observe the changes that occur in the life cycle of this single caterpillar.

First thing every morning I head outside with my macro lens to take photos and follow its progress.

You can see this amazing transformation for yourself at Watching a Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Grow, at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens

More information about Black Swallowtail Butterflies:

What Black and White Caterpillar Eats Carrots?
What Did Black Swallowtails Eat Before we Brought In Parsley, Dill, and Queen Anne’s Lace?

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Ecosystem Gardening
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 by Gina Thomas
more of a question...

I too have a butterfly garden. Last year I had a whole crop of black swallowtail caterpillars and they defoliated the parsley I planted for them. I have also had many monarchs through the mild winter we've had in Tampa, but have not seen black swallow tail since perhaps October. I planted more parsley and have a huge 3' wide swath, plus dill and fennel. Any idea when the black swallowtails will become active again? The monarchs and gulf fritillaries are here, and making little cats.