Black Swallowtail Caterpillars/Butterfly

So, the other day I spot this crazy little caterpillar in our backyard. Little G looks at it and says, “Mama, that’s poisonous! I saw it throw up its tentacles.” (She meant antenna and we find out later what they’re really called.)

Now, I grew up in Yonkers, NY so my experience with bugs has been cockroaches. That’s all I know. That’s all I’ve learned to live with. So when my youngest — with all of 2  years of education in her back pocket — tells me that some caterpillar is poisonous, I BELIEVE HER!! I left it alone for the moment to kill a few hundred flies that had managed to get in my house, and planned on coming back later to photograph it.

It really is  a beautiful caterpillar. In my effort to photograph it up close, I gently tried to push it onto a paper plate so I could then scoot it onto the railing for a better shot. Well, it was a bit windy that day and before I know it the wind has caught the paper plate and it’s flipped that little caterpillar in my direction!!! I screamed like a 2 year old baby!!! Heck yeah I did!!! I wasn’t embarrassed, because anyone that knows me knows — I don’t do well with bugs. Especially poisonous ones.

So, once I composed myself, and was able to locate it, I took this picture…

Didn’t I tell you it was beautiful?! I snap my picture and go about the rest of my day (going to the bank and buying a bridge that Little G has told me will increase in value within the next 5 years).

Fast forward a few hours and my second daughter does some research online. We find out that it’s the Black Swallowtail Caterpillar and when it finally erupts out of its chrysalis it looks like this…

Isn’t that something?! We also learned that it’s NOT poisonous, at least not to humans, and it’s one of the best caterpillar for children to grow. (That’ll teach me to heed the warning of a 2nd grader.)

This is where we start searching high and low in our backyard, hoping that we’re able to find them. Surprisingly, and I swear I have no idea how we found BOTH of them (yes, there were two), we do, and we put them into our butterfly garden throwing in some parsley.

We’ve done this once before with those mail order caterpillars that grow into Monarch butterflies. It was a cool experience. The kids liked it (especially when they start coming out of their chrysalis and they look like they’re bleeding!), but we’re SUPER excited about these. Look at that butterfly!!!

One of the caterpillars has already finished its chrysalis. The other one will soon follow as it’s slowed down considerably. It’ll be about 14 days before they come out.

God, I hope they don’t fly at me when we release them. I’m likely to swat at them and kill ’em. Wouldn’t that be a sight for my kids to cherish … forever?



  1. …then you’ll scoot the snake over with a stick to get it in better lighting.

    Surprised you haven’t come across any scorpions yet. Then again, you’re in Austin …Not quite texas 😉

  2. Thanks so much. I live in Illinois, so somehow one of those things got here, when i saw the antennae I thought it was poisonous, too (6th Grader) So me and my friend picked it up w a stick and started reserching. It is really a beautiful creature. Thanks 🙂

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