Sunday Contentments – Caterpillars and butterflies

Once again, Sunday finds me relaxing on the sofa with my netbook and a cup of tea close at hand. It’s been an exhausting week. I spent most of it trying to catch up on work after returning from Balticon 44 (from which my head is still reeling). Add to that Pixie’s birthday (she’s now four and all grown up, or so she tells me) and the attendant cupcake baking, present shopping, and special day out, and you’ve got one exhausted mama.

However, it’s still been a good week. In addition to Pixie’s big day, we also had another special event happen on Friday. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been raising a caterpillar that was given to us by our good friend Mich. Mich found a swallowtail butterfly laying eggs in her backyard and she brought over a parsley spring with one egg on it. We watched that tiny speck go from egg to minuscule caterpillar to giant caterpillar and then to chrysalis. It was all very fascinating, and the whole process finally came to fruition on Friday afternoon when the chrysalis opened and out came a butterfly. Here are a few pics of Papilio polyxenes, the Black Swallowtail butterfly (click on the picture to see a larger view).

The chrysalis, just a couple days before emergence. It started out very bright green then got darker. I was informed that the darker it got, the closer we were to having a butterfly come out.

The butterfly, shortly after emerging. It happened very fast. I came down from the office and checked on the chrysalis (we kept it in a butterfly habitat on our kitchen table) then headed up to the bedroom for a few minutes. When I came back, there was this huge, brightly colored miracle resting in the habitat. And man, was it vivid!

The butterfly, pumping up its wings in the habitat. The habitat is a sort of mesh hamper with a clear vinyl top that zips closed. We bought it at Lowe’s Hardware. It came with a certificate for Painted Lady Butterfly caterpillars. However, the same day this butterfly emerged, I found four more caterpillars on one of the plants on my back deck. So I moved them into the habitat that morning. It sort of made me feel like an apartment manager, waiting for one tenant, the swallowtail, to move out while the new tenants moved in.

Our final look at the Black Swallowtail butterfly. From what I’ve seen on the web, our butterfly was a female. We brought her out to the back deck and released her from the habitat. She then fluttered to the ground and stayed there for a while. We were getting ready to head out for dinner that evening, so we left her there. She was gone before we even got into the car. Good luck butterfly, wherever you are!

The new tenants in our butterfly habitat. This one is resting in Mich’s hand. She came over last night and I gave her two of our new caterpillars, along with a dwarf curry plant and a mallow plant. I suspect these are American Painted Lady caterpillars, but can’t say for certain at this point. This time around, I’m going to document their growth through the caterpillar and chrysalis stage so I’ll have more pictures to show. The whole experience was rather thrilling. Mich has some more swallowtail caterpillars at home and I think I just may take her up on her offer to get a couple of them for our habitat (and I may just break down and get a cheap aquarium as she suggested, especially if I find any more eggs or caterpillars in our garden).

Bottom line, this experience has set the tone for our summer. Princess and Pixie were fascinated with the caterpillars and checked on them every day. Myself, I can easily see us picking up a couple of butterfly and insect guides for the summer and spending time looking for what’s right in our own backyard. I’m even considering at this point working on making our backyard a certified Backyard Habitat. In any case, I think it’s safe to say this will be the Summer of Science.

Mich managed to capture some video of one of her butterflies coming out of the chrysalis. You can find it here. She set the camera up to tape while she was out, so skip ahead to about 24 minutes in to see the butterfly emerge.

About Cynical Woman

Cartoonist, Artist, Geek, Evil Crafter, Girl Scout Troop Leader and Writer. Also, a zombie. I haven't slept in I don't know how long.
Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Wow, the cream rows of the ventral wings of your female are pretty big compared to ours! Our females have had more blue and smaller cream rows.

    Really, I’ll post all my pictures and other videos just as soon as I finish my homework (I’ll post em somewhere before I get the blog set up)

  2. Mich,

    It was a very impressive butterfly and quite a shock to see when I came downstairs. The cats were absolutely fascinated, thus the reason why I released her as soon as possible. I may need to find a safe spot for when these next two caterpillars hatch. One has already had a growth spurt. I see bits and pieces of shed skin all over the habitat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.