I've been monarch ranching for awhile, but I've always wanted to ranch some swallowtails. Some species of swallowtail caterpillars feed on parsley. Earlier this spring, I found out that we had accidentally had a black swallowtail living in our apartment (we guess it came in as a caterpillar on some of Cinnamon's parsley) but I wanted to it right this summer, and find the caterpillar and watch it grow. Mr. Neil has some parsley (above) in his garden, so I decided to see if I could find swallowtail caterpillars on that. I find that locating caterpillars takes a long time the first time you look for them, but once you find them, your eyes become trained and in the future, they are easier to find. I sat down and studied the parsley.
After a good ten minutes of study, I found six small caterpillars. They looked nothing like any of the swallowtail caterpillars in my books. I looked up the general characteristics of the black swallowtail: caterpillars are found on parsley (check), on the top side of the leaf (check), and early stages resembles bird poop (check). But still, if you look at what a large black swallowtail looks like, the books show you this. This tiny thing doesn't look like that at all. Fortunately, with the magic of google, you can narrow your search of images on the internet and I found photos of young black swallowtail caterpillars and they look just like what I found in the above photo--success, we have swallowtails!
I took four of the six swallowtail caterpillars and put them in my butterfly pavilion. You can see a water bottle inside, holding a bunch of curly parsley for them to feed off of, right along side a water bottle full of milkweed and monarch caterpillars. Next to the pavillion is a bunch of milk weed in a different water bottle--those are plants with monarch eggs on them. I keep the eggs separate until the caterpillars hatch so I don't confuse leaves with eggs with the leaves for feeding. Should be an interesting couple of weeks.