It's red and lime green with black on its back and a few white spots as well. Found in Tulsa, Oklahoma (USA).
Looks like a greenish variant of Hemileuca maia - the Buck Moth, which according to here does occur in Oklahoma. This source also suggests that touching the caterpillar (or its relatives) is a bad idea…
Furry Caterpillar Types with An Identification Chart and Pictures
Furry caterpillars are a fascinating type of insect that usually turn into moths. Most types of furry caterpillars feed on the leaves of plants and trees. Although many hairy caterpillars look scary, most are quite harmless. There are some spiky caterpillars that are poisonous and can give you a bee-like sting or cause skin irritation. So, until you identify the exact caterpillar species, you should avoid handling the furry ones without protective gloves.
Spiny Elm Caterpillar
This spiny elm caterpillar with red spots will eventually become a mourning cloak butterfly.
The spiny elm caterpillar (Nymphalis antiopa) belongs to the category of "stinging caterpillars." When full grown, this two-inch-long caterpillar is covered with bristles. Its body is black with numerous white flecks and a row of red spots down the back the prolegs are red.
Mourning cloak butterfly — image courtesy of Lacy L. Hyche, Auburn University, Bugwood.org
The spiny elm caterpillar is the larval stage of the mourning cloak butterfly, a desirable species for the butterfly garden. The caterpillar feeds on the leaves of elm, willow, hackberry and cottonwood, rarely causing significant damage. In some parts of the country the caterpillars are seen in spring, but in some areas a second brood may be seen in late summer. The mourning cloak butterfly is also one of few butterflies to overwinter in the adult stage.
Mildly Toxic Caterpillars
Here are some mildly poisonous caterpillars that are best to be stayed away from..
American Dagger Moth Acronicta americana
These larvae are about 2 inches long. They have dense yellow setae (short hairs covering the body) that are mildly poisonous. It is also called the hairy caterpillar. It has a black head and a lemon yellow body. The body is covered with setae and few stinging tufts that are poisonous and may cause complications depending on your skin type. It is found primarily on maple, birch, horse chestnut, hazel, walnut, and oak trees.
Buck Moth (Hemileuca maia)
These larvae are 2 to 2.5 inches long. Buck moth caterpillars are poisonous, their stings can cause not only rashes but also nausea. It has a base black color with white spots on the upper segments of the body. The respiratory segment has light brown patches, the base color though predominantly black can also be found white. They populate oak forests and pupate either on the ground or near it.
Passion Butterfly (Agraulis vanilae)
These caterpillars are about 1.5 inches long―mostly smaller than that. They have soft, nonpoisonous spines. The identification is the bright orange color and branched spikes. They are not harmful to humans, but are poisonous when eaten, and are thus protected from predators. These larvae feed exclusively on passionflowers – thus the name of the species.
Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar)
These caterpillars range from 2-3.5 inches, and can be fairly easily identified due to the conspicuous arrangement of colored dots on their back. Starting from the head, gypsy moth caterpillars have 5 blue and 6 red spots along their body. They are found on oak, aspen, apple, willows, pine, and spruce trees.
Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
The larvae of this ominously named butterfly are 1-2 inches long. The identification is a dark black body with a dim orange dorsal patches and white hair with few spikes.They live in a communally spun web on willow, aspen, and birch trees.
Pine Processionary (Thaumetopoea pityocampa)
These caterpillars are named after their marching behavior of traveling in a single file – procession. They build communal nests in their host trees. They are extremely toxic, and should never be handled. They can be identified from their orange color and white hairs. They are found on pine, cedar, and larch trees.
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
As the name suggests, these caterpillars feed almost exclusively on pipevines. The larva can be identified from its long tubercles and brown glossy color, the sub-dorsal tubercles are short and bright orange in color. The full-grown larva is red colored with sub-dorsal tubercles brown.
Puss Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)
These seemingly appealing moths are one of the most toxic and dangerous of all caterpillars. Their spines can’t be seen at first glance due to their thick orange ‘fur’, making them even more dangerous. These reside in oak and elm trees, citruses, rose, and ivies.
Saddleback Caterpillar (Sibine stimulea)
This caterpillar gets its name due to the unusual appearance. It is basically the larva of a species of moth, and belongs to the family of slug caterpillars, Limacodidae. The name “slug caterpillar” is due to the slight resemblance to slugs. A sting from these caterpillars can be quite painful. The back of this caterpillar resembles a fancy saddle of a horse. They are found on various plants, including the Christmas palm.
Silver-spotted Tiger Moth (Lophocampa argentata)
These caterpillars are found on Douglas-fir trees. It can be easily identified by its color that resembles a tiger. The body is covered with hairs, any contact with its hair can cause skin irritation. It may also lead to further complications depending on the skin type.
Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae)
These conspicuous caterpillars are found on clover and birdsfoot trefoil trees. The identification is easy, it is light yellow in color with black dorsal patches and white hair. It warns off predators with the bright color projecting danger. It has the ability to produce cyanide which can harm or potentially kill the predator.
Rusty Tussock Moth (Orgyia antiqua)
These caterpillars are less than 2 inches long, and are found in birch, oak, willow, and lime trees. The distinct identification is the black hairpencil. The body color resembles that of rust. The skin hair is white barring the hairpencil.
Spurge Hawk-moth (Hyles euphorbiae)
As the name suggests, these moths feed on spurges. In fact they are often used as a natural pesticide to purge out the weed. When consumed they can give some serious gastric trouble. The one thing characteristic about these caterpillars is the vivid color. They are adorn with red and yellow stripes and light colored spots all over their body. Its hard to mistake it for anything else for it is truly one of its kind.
Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)
These caterpillars can be easily identified by their communal tent in the host plant, and their defensive behavior. Their hair may cause skin irritation. There has been an instance in Kentucky where a large number of mares suffered miscarriage, which was found to be a result of an Eastern Tent Caterpillar outbreak. They can be found on cherry and maple trees.
Sycamore Moth (Acronicta aceris)
These striking caterpillars are not poisonous. They don’t have sharp spines and can be handled, but repeated handling may lead to skin irritation. It has bright yellow hair with shades of orange and white dorsal spots. It devours on aspen, willow, and poplar.
Caterpillars are fascinating to observe, annoying when in your home, and deadly if carelessly handled. It’s best to keep it at arm’s distance, though it is certainly not necessary to kill them. Like any other creature, it is more scared of you than you are of it. Just drop it outside, and it won’t bother you any more.
Caterpillars are one of the many creepy crawlies inhabiting in your garden. On first glance they may all seem the same, but identifying caterpillars can be fun as well as&hellip
Identifying caterpillars can be a real challenge, as most of them do not resemble adult butterflies. Here is a brief overview about some of the most common types of caterpillars&hellip
Identifying caterpillars can be a real challenge, as most of them do not resemble adult butterflies. Here is a brief overview about some of the most common types of caterpillars&hellip
What kind of red/green/black, spiny caterpillar is this? - Biology
I've been seeing a lot of spiny caterpillars this spring.
It seems simplistic, but googling what something looks like, in very basic terms -- in this case, "black spiny caterpillar" -- works amazingly well, most of the time.
It brings up the site What's this North American Caterpillar, which spiffily shows my caterpillar on the front page.
And how exciting that this scary goth individual will turn into a Mourning Cloak butterfly!
This bristly guy below was a little more difficult.
But I think he becomes one of my favorites, a Question Mark butterfly.
I wasn't tempted in the least to touch either one of them!
Visit Wayne to see his spiny caterpillar siting too.
Great photos. Thanks for the link to the caterpillar site. I'm sure I'll be using it in the future. Fascinating.
we have one here that makes your finger numb when you touch it.
NCMW, I love the way they are categorized. (hmm, caterpillar categories, I like that phrase!) It's a lot easier than BugGuide, in this case.
Karl, I hope you didn't learn that from personal experience! :)
I wouldn't be tempted either.. :0
Sorry to hear about your internet getting zapped but hope you got some nice rain for the garden. BTW, how is it going?
years ago we had the ugliest hatch of spiny caterpillars in our globe willow tree (*our late globe willow tree)
The hubby hopped up and thought he wouold get his trusty spray out -- when I noticed a mama robin carrying one away in her beak. Soon there were quite a few robins taking their catch back to the nests. We left them to do their work - and they pretty much cleaned them up. I have no idea what kind of caterpillars they were. Ugly was sufficient.
Thanks for the cool links! I love reading about bugs. That second caterpillar looks like a sponge for dishes!
I love these photos.
And thank you for the cool links!
my little brother wanted to pick a caterpillar up and put it in his pocket and my mother freaked out when he was crying because he couldn't feel his whole arm. I love caterpillars :)
Identification of Black Caterpillars
Black Caterpillars’ best identification markers are that they have hairy and fuzzy bodies with some specific appearance. They have stripes on their back, either yellow or orange, and they look vibrant and beautiful. Their hairs may be very soft and not harmful at all.
Some species have hairs as hard as spikes and can be used by them as a defense mechanism. So, the fur on them may be soft like wools and sore, too, depending on species and circumstances.
This article will help you to find out the facts about the black caterpillars and the identification pointers. How would you identify the different caterpillar species, and how many types of black caterpillars are available worldwide? You will also learn about the different characteristics of the Caterpillars. Let us begin!
Do they bite? Are oleander caterpillars poisonous?
They don’t bite, sting, or transmit disease. But they’re poisonous. (By Cayobo, CC BY-SA 2.0).
Yes, these caterpillars are poisonous.
They can extract the poisonous compounds and glycosides in plant leaves when they eat and then make a poison that they use against predators. Their long black hair and striking coloration signify to potential predators to not mess with them because they’re dangerous.
They don’t bite or sting, but they can leave behind poison trails.
You should never touch a spotted orange caterpillar by hand. They’re dangerous to humans, dogs, and other mammalians. You should never touch them with your bare hands.
What happens if you touch one?
You’ll get a painful rash that’ll become extremely itchy and dry over time. If you touch your eyes after touching one, this can cause eye-watering and pain.
You should always use protective garden gloves and equipment if you want to remove these caterpillars.
Can they harm dogs?
Yes, they’re harmful to dogs. The glycosides they produce affect mammals, which include both humans and dogs.
This tri-colored guy is black, yellow, and red, and has tufts of long hair coming out of the yellow mounds that make up its body. While the long black hairs don’t sting, the short hairs covering the tufts do, Nash explains , noting y ou’re most likely to see a white flannel moth caterpillar in late summer, and they show up throughout southern, midwestern and eastern areas, of the U.S . These insects turn into adorably fuzzy moths, but stee r clear of them prior to molting.
Its name gives it away, but if you find one of these in your garden, it’s not going to be wearing a name tag. That’s why it’s important to know that stinging rose caterpillars are brightly colored (some combination of red, orange and yellow), striped, and horned. According to Nash , its bright colors are there to warn other creatures of their venom.
What kind of red/green/black, spiny caterpillar is this? - Biology
The oleander caterpillar, Syntomeida epilais Walker, a bright orange caterpillar with tufts of long black hairs, is a common sight on oleanders in Florida and southern Georgia. In southern regions of Florida the oleander caterpillar can cause considerable defoliation. This species is the only caterpillar pest of concern on this ornamental plant, although a related species, the spotted oleander caterpillar, Empyreuma pugione (Linnaeus), may be found occasionally in south Florida and the Keys.
Figure 1. A polka-dot wasp moth, the adult stage of the oleander caterpillar, Syntomeida epilais Walker. Photograph by James Castner, University of Florida.
Distribution (Back to Top)
The oleander caterpillar is a native of the Caribbean region. Its range extends from northern South America, through Central America into Mexico, and from many Caribbean islands into Florida and coastal regions of southeastern states. It is a year round inhabitant of south Florida and the Keys but is usually killed by cold winter temperatures in northern and north-central Florida only to recolonize these areas the following spring. The original host plant is thought to be a now relatively rare beach- or pineland-inhabiting vine, Echites umbellata Jacq. However, the oleander caterpillar is thought to have switched over to feeding on oleander when the Spanish introduced this Mediterranean ornamental plant in the 17th century. The geographic distribution of the oleander caterpillar in America now coincides with that of oleander except that the caterpillar is not found in California.
Description (Back to Top)
Adults: The adult stage of the oleander caterpillar is sometimes called the polka-dot wasp moth. Wasp moth is the common name given to the subfamily of arctiid moths to which this species belongs (the ctenuchines) because of their resemblance to wasps such as the sphecids and pompilids. The moth's body and wings are a beautiful iridescent blue/green. Small white dots are found on the body, wings, legs and antennae, and the tip of the abdomen is red/orange. Male and female moths are quite similar in appearance, and have a wing span of 45 to 51 mm. These moths are slow-flying and active during daylight hours, which contrasts them with other moth species which are usually nocturnal.
Eggs: The eggs are found in clusters on the underside surfaces of oleander leaves. They are pale cream to light yellow in color, spherical in shape, and measure less than 1 mm in diameter.
Figure 2. Egg cluster of the oleander caterpillar, Syntomeida epilais Walker, laid on bottom surface of oleander leaves. Photograph by James Castner, University of Florida.
Figure 3. Orange and black larva of the oleander caterpillar, Syntomeida epilais Walker. Photograph by Paul Choate, University of Florida.
Pupae: The pupae are smooth and brown in appearance and are aggregated in depressions on tree trunks or where the walls meet the eaves of buildings. The pupal aggregation is covered by a thin cocoon woven from silk and hairs from their larval skins.
Figure 4. Pupal aggregation of the oleander caterpillar, Syntomeida epilais Walker, covered by a thin cocoon of hairs and silk. Photograph by James Castner, University of Florida.
Life Cycle (Back to Top)
Moths of the oleander caterpillar, unlike most moth species, do not use volatile sex pheromones to locate each other for the purpose of reproduction. In this species, female moths perch on oleander foliage and emit an ultrasonic acoustic signal which, although inaudible to us, attracts male moths from great distances. When male and female moths are within a few meters of each other, they begin a courtship duet of acoustic calls which continues until mating occurs two or three hours before dawn.
Once mated, female moths search for plants on which to lay their eggs. They oviposit on the undersides of the leaves in young growing shoots of oleander plants. Egg masses can contain from 12 to 75 eggs. First instars hatch in two to six days, depending on the temperature, and eat the shells of their eggs. The second and third instars (2 to 4 mm in length) usually feed gregariously on the underside of leaves, progressively moving down the plant. The gregarious feeding stage averages about 8.5 days in the summer.
After molting to the fourth instar, larvae begin to consume the entire leaf rather than just the underneath surface and often are solitary. It is the fourth, fifth and sixth instars that can defoliate entire oleander bushes. This solitary feeding stage averages about 19 days. The mature sixth instars leave the oleander plant and search for a pupation site. The larvae aggregate for some unknown reason and form pupal aggregations covered by a very thin silk cocoon.
Damage (Back to Top)
Early infestation by the oleander caterpillar is easy to recognize. The young, gregariously feeding larvae turn the new oleander shoots a light brown color due to their skeletonizing feeding behavior (leaving the major and minor leaf veins untouched while eating the tissue in between). Examination of the underneath surface of these brown leaves or those leaves slightly below the damaged foliage will reveal a group of small larvae. At this stage the insect is very easy to control. If caterpillars are allowed to grow beyond the small, gregarious stage, they can inflict a lot of unsightly defoliation on the oleander unless nature or human intervention stops them. Total defoliation will not kill the plant but, if it occurs repeatedly year after year, the plant may be more susceptible to other pests such as scale insects.
Figure 5. Control of the oleander caterpillar, Syntomeida epilais Walker, is easiest during its gregarious feeding stage. Photograph by James Castner, University of Florida.
Figure 6. Skeletonized oleander terminals are the first sign of infestation by the oleander caterpillar, Syntomeida epilais Walker. Photograph by James Castner, University of Florida.
Management (Back to Top)
Biological control. Birds are often great predators of caterpillar pests in the landscape. However, because of the poisonous diet of the oleander caterpillar, birds and small mammals do not feed on this abundant resource. Several other insect species however are able to feed on the oleander caterpillar. Natural enemies include predatory stink bugs, parasitic tachinid flies and wasps, and the ever voracious red imported fire ant. Stink bugs have been observed sucking the juices out of larvae. Tachinid flies lay their eggs on large larvae and wasps lay their eggs on pupae. The progeny of these parasitic insects then devour the oleander caterpillar. Fire ants often discover the pupal aggregations and eat this immobile life stage. Viral, fungal and bacterial diseases can be quite prevalent in certain years and can cause tremendous levels of mortality. Pathogen-infected larvae are often dark in color, flaccid and easily "liquified". While these pathogen-infected larvae may look "gross", leaving them on the oleander bushes will allow the disease to spread within the oleander caterpillar population.
Figure 7. The spined soldier bug, Podisus maculiventris (Say), sucking the contents of an oleander caterpillar larva, Syntomeida epilais Walker. Photograph by James Castner, University of Florida.
Figure 8. Parasitic wasp, Brachymeria incerta, laying egg in a pupa of the oleander caterpillar, Syntomeida epilais Walker. Photograph by James Castner, University of Florida.
Cultural control. Removal of larvae-infested foliage is the most environmentally friendly method of controlling the oleander caterpillar and is relatively easy on bushes of less than 2 m in height. Simply use a pair of scissors or pruners to snip off the damaged foliage and the group of feeding larvae. Put the infested plant material in a plastic bag and freeze for 24 hours to kill the caterpillars. Because of the poisonous nature of the plant sap, care must be taken to wash the hands immediately after disposing of the pruned plant material. Large larvae can be hand picked and frozen similarly or dropped into a container of soapy water. This method has none of the possible side effects, such as killing beneficial biological control agents or risking human insecticide exposure, that can occur with insecticidal control. It is difficult to remove larvae from very tall bushes, however. There are no oleander cultivars that are resistant to oleander caterpillar but it has been suggested that dwarf cultivars may be less susceptible.
Chemical control. Application of insecticides should be considered as a last resort for this insect which, while producing unsightly damage, does not kill oleander. Bacillus thuringiensis, a microbial insecticide that is sold under various trade names, is a bacterium that kills only lepidopteran larvae. It has no toxicity toward beneficial insects.
Selected References (Back to Top)
- Bratley HE. 1932. The oleander caterpillar, Syntomeida epilais Walker. Florida Entomologist 15: 55-64.
- McAuslane HJ, Bennett FD. 1995. Parasitoids and predators associated with Syntomeida epilais (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae) on oleander. Florida Entomologist 78: 543-546.
- Reinert JA. 1974. Bacillus thuringiensis for control of the oleander caterpillar. Proceedings of the Southern Nursery Association Research Conference 19: 44-45.
- Reinert JA. 1980. Control of the oleander caterpillar on oleander. Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society 93: 168-169.
- Rothschild M, von Euw J, Reichstein T. 1973. Cardiac glycosides (heart poisons) in the polka-dot moth Syntomeida epilais Walk. (Ctenuchidae: Lep.) with some observations on the toxic qualities of Amata (=Syntomis) phegea (L.). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 183: 227-247.
- Sanderford MV, Conner WE. 1990. Courtship sounds of the polka-dot wasp moth, Syntomeida epilais. Naturwissenschaften 77: 345-347.
Author: Heather McAuslane, University of Florida
Photographs: James Castner, Paul Choate, University of Florida
Web Design: Don Wasik, Jane Medley
Publication Number: EENY-9
Publication Date: April 1997. Latest revision: September 2016. Latest review January 2020.
An Equal Opportunity Institution
Featured Creatures Editor and Coordinator: Dr. Elena Rhodes, University of Florida
Black swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes
Black swallow tail is a common butterfly throughout eastern North America.
The black swallowtail – also called the eastern black swallowtail or American swallowtail and a variety of other colloquial names such as parsley worm – is a common butterfly found throughout much of North America. Papilio polyxenes is one of many species in the largest genus in the butterfly family Papilionidae (swallowtails). It ranges from southern Canada to northern South America, but is most common east of the Rocky Mountains. There are several subspecies that occur in Mexico, Central America and South America. It has been designated as the state butterfly of Oklahoma.
The male black swallowtail has more noticable yellow and less blue on the wings.
Adult black swallowtails are usually found in open areas, such as fields, meadows, parks, wetlands, prairies and sunny backyards. Females tend to be larger than the males, with a wingspan of 3¼ to 4¼ inches. The wings are black with yellow, blue, orange and red markings. On the upper surface there are two rows of yellow spots along the edges, with a powdery iridescent blue area between the two rows and a
The female black swallowtail has more blue and less yellow on the wings.
red eyespot (red circle with a black bulls-eye) near the margin of each hind wing. The yellow spots are typically large and bright and the blue not very prominent on males, while females have smaller and lighter colored yellow spots but a prominent blue area (although some males have markings similar to females) – this difference is called sexual dimorphism.
Both male and female black swallowtails have distinctive markings on the undersides of the wings and the characteristic tail.
The underside of the wings has two rows of pale yellow spots on the edges of the front wings and bands of orange spots separated by pale blue on the hind wings. Both sexes have the characteristic narrow lobe on the hindwings, called the tail.
Although black swallowtail is fairly easy to identify, it is most likely to be confused with the pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor), which is black with an iridescent blue-green sheen and only faint white spots on the upper surface and has only a single row of spots below, and the spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus), an uncommon stray into Wisconsin, which has white spots on the upper surface and the yellow spots on the underside are interrupted in the middle by a blue area. The underside of the wings mimics that of the poisonous and distasteful pipevine swallowtail which can fool vertebrate predators into avoiding eating them (Batesian mimicry). Since they spend a lot of time roosting with the wings closed, this maximizes the protective effects (the upper side of the wings of males doesn’t resemble that of the pipevine swallowtail).
Male butterflies emerge before the females and maintain and defend territories, where they perch and patrol for receptive female butterflies. Both sexes obtain nectar from a variety of flowers, including milkweed, thistles, purple coneflower, zinnias, and Verbena bonariensis. They will also visit moist ground to obtain salts.
Parsley is a common host of the caterpillars in backyards.
Larval host plants include a variety of species in the carrot family (Apiaceae). Cultivated dill, parsley, fennel, celery, caraway, and carrot are common food sources in backyard gardens, where it could be considered a pest. Usually they are not numerous enough to present a real problem. But for gardeners who do not want their plants eaten, handpicking would eliminate the problem in most situations. Insecticides are rarely justified, but if needed, foliar insecticides and the bacterial insecticide BT (Bacillus thuringiensis)
When numerous black swallowtail caterpillars could be considered a pest in gardens as they can consume entire plants (on dill in this photo).
provide effective control. Black swallowtail will sometimes also utilize plants in the citrus family (Rutaceae), including common rue, Ruta graveolens. Wild plants that are utilized as larval food include introduced species such as Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot, Daucus carota), poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), and wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) and native species including spotted water hemlock (Cicuta maculata) and golden alexander (Zizia aurea).
Female butterflies lay eggs on the larval host plants (L). The yellow eggs (R) turn dark right before hatching (insert).
Females lay pale yellow, spherical eggs singly on host plants, usually on new foliage but occasionally on flowers. The eggs darken as the caterpillar develops inside. The eggs hatch in 3 to 9 days, with the caterpillar chewing its way out of the egg and then consuming the eggshell. The first instar larvae are spiny and mostly black with a whitish saddle, mimicking bird droppings. In the second and third instars the spines are reddish or orange.
The early instar caterpillars are black and spiny with a white saddle (L), resembling bird droppings (R).
Older larvae (fourth and fifth instars) are green with transverse bands of black with yellow spots, a color pattern that likely makes them hard to see while resting on the sun-dappled host plants. The caterpillars eventually grow up to 1½ to 2 inches long. The larval stage takes 10 to 30 days depending on temperature and type of host plant.
When the caterpillar molts from the 3rd to 4th instar it leaves the dark spiny form behind (L) and changes coloring (LC) to eventually become smooth and green with black markings (RC) that helps it blend in with the foliage (R).
Swallowtail larvae have a eversible organ called the osmeterium for repelling predators.
All swallowtail larvae have an eversible horn-like organ behind the head known as the osmeterium (osmeteria, plural) that looks like a forked snake tongue. It is a bright yellow-orange color on the black swallowtail. When the caterpillar is disturbed it rears up and the organ is extended for a short period of time. When everted it it releases a chemical repellent with a foul smell to repel predators. It is harmless to humans, however.
Once the caterpillar matures it wanders away from the host plants to find a place to pupate. It positions itself in the typical swallowtail “head-up” position on something such as a plant stem, tree trunk, foundation wall or other location and spins a slender silken band around the thoracic area to support itself and is attaches at the hind end to a silk pad by a Velcro®-like cremaster. It then molts one last time into a naked chrysalis (not inside a cocoon like moths make) with short horn-like protrusions on the head.
The mature caterpillar spins a slended silken band around its upper portion (L), to attach to a support (LC) where it changes in the pupal stage (RC). The adult will eventually emerge from the naked chrysalis (R).
The pupa may be green or brown to blend in with its surroundings.
The color of the chrysalis is either greenish with yellow markings or mottled brown. This is determined genetically, not by the individual’s immediate surroundings, so that the majority of the pupae will blend in overwintering pupae are always brown. This stage is very cryptic and not commonly seen in the garden. Those of the first brood will remain in the pupal state for 2 to 3 weeks, while later generations pupating in the fall will enter diapause and overwinter in the pupal stage. Adults emerge in the spring, generally eclosing in the morning. There are usually two generations in the upper Midwest, with adults generally flying from mid-May until late September. They are most numerous in early July until late August when the second brood adults are out. There is a third flight period in southern regions.
Encourage black swallowtails to visit by planting flowers.
This insect may be parasitized in the larval or pupal stages by flies in the families Phoridae and Tachinidae, and by wasps in the families Brachonidae and Ichneumonidae. Since some insect parasitoids find their hosts by the smell of volatile chemicals in insect frass, black swallowtail larvae use their mandibles to throw their fecal pellets off the plant so these natural enemies will be less likely to find them.
If you want to encourage black swallowtail to visit your garden, plant both flowers to provide nectar, provide some larval host plants, such as dill or parsley that you are willing to let them eat, and refrain from using insecticides in the garden.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison
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