My Blue and Black Tale

by Katrina Weaver | May 1, 2024 | 0 comments

My schoolteacher had explained to us that swallowtail butterfly caterpillars like carrot plants. Since I had a row of carrots in my garden, I thought I’d check them. But in vain. Daily I’d take my trip to the garden and come back disappointed.

But, oh, joy! One day I was not disappointed. There in the carrot tops, a green and black-striped caterpillar was camouflaged. Just what I was looking for!

I carefully clipped the stem on which my new friend was sitting. I gathered a bunch of carrot tops to feed him. Then to the house we went, Mr. Caterpillar and I.

Upon arriving at the house, I studied him more closely. What dainty features! Would he make a chrysalis for me? I could only wait and see.

black swallowtail caterpillar on carrot leaves
Black swallowtail caterpillar. Photo © Jim Cochrane|Dreamstime.com.

His new home consisted of a pint jar, a twig, and a bunch of fresh carrot tops. He seemed to enjoy it. Every day he grew rounder and fatter until I thought his skin would pop!

Then, at last, he spun a thread of silk, attaching his head to the twig. With his back legs, he clung to the stick. He hung there for about half a week.

And…finally he wrapped himself in a cozy silk blanket.

But quite the chrysalis! How ugly. How unattractive. How papery. How dull. Yet how amazing!

black swallowtail chrysalis
Black swallowtail chrysalis. Photo © NajaShots|iStock.com.

Now he just hung there…waiting…waiting…waiting. But he was alive! I could tell by the occasional jerks and squirms. As I had been told, I misted him gently several times during his pupa stage.

It seemed he would never hatch. He sat there for weeks…and weeks…and weeks!

But one dewy morning, due to the work of overnight company and a family gathering, I failed to look at Mr. Caterpillar. When I finally did glance at him for a split second…what did I see? There he was, but in a totally different form—a gorgeous blue and black butterfly wrapped in all his splendor! He was an Eastern black swallowtail.

I couldn’t have been more delighted. I just couldn’t have been! I showed him to my family, then carefully put him on a geranium leaf where Mr. “Caterpillar” sat fanning his wings. How could such a beauty come from a brown papery nest?

black swallowtail butterfly on purple flowers
Black swallowtail butterfly. Photo © marcophotos|iStock.com.

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