Is our black swallowtail caterpillar dead?

by Rebecca

Our black swallowtail caterpillar crawled to the top of it's container, attached itself to the top and has been hanging there for 2 days. Actually, this will be day 3. I'm wondering if it's dead. Do they hang that long before pupating?

Karen says:
If it is attached normally with a "thread" around its middle it might still pupate. My last black swallowtail caterpillars took a few days to shed their skin and pupate.

Comments for Is our black swallowtail caterpillar dead?

Click here to add your own comments

It's been a week now.
by: Christi

This is my first time raising a caterpillar. We found this little guy and fed him parsley and dill. He ate just fine and was doing great. Then it came time to go to pupate. He climbed the side of the cage and went all over the top of the cage and fell 4 times while I was up that night. He was fine each time and went back up to the top. Then the next morning I found him attached to the roof of the cage.

Okay so here is the part I'm worried about. While he was alive and moving for a few days. (as I accidentally kept hitting my hand against the cage when I'd go check on him) He started to turn black. (now not black and in black death as he is not shiny black just like grayish black) Now the roof of our cage is black. So could it be camouflage?

Next as the comment title says, it has now been a week since he got up there. However the temperature has been flexing up here from warm to cold to warm. Is it dead? Does it really sometimes last more than a week or just up to a week.


Upside down
by: Emily

We also have a caterpillar that seems to be ready to pupate, but it is only hanging upside down, not attached in the middle. It has been like that all day. When I gently touched it this morning, it stuck out it's orange warning horns, so it was still alive. Tonight it looks just the same, upside down, no J shape, no middle thread. Is it going to make it?

Another person fearful that her caterpillar is dead
by: Ann

You are so nice to offer all this info. It was very helpful when I found a black swallowtail cat' a couple of weeks ago we named Auggie (for August). Auggie went through all the stages perfectly and just flew off yesterday. I had to go on a business trip and my sister and her children were my "surrogates" in the final stage.

Luckily I have a new one that I am looking forward to observing through to adulthood. We are calling him "Chance" because he is my second chance at this. However, he is not looking too good. I have 2 pics I can send. He started going into the chrysalis "pose" Sunday and now, Thursday night, he is hanging only by the thread with both sides of his body flopped down, like an upside-down V. No movement whatsoever. Have you ever seen this before? Might he be OK? I won't touch him until I hear from you. Thanks so much again. BTW, while babysitting for Auggie, my sister's little girl noticed there was a baby black swallowtail cat' right in the cage! We are calling her "Bonus" for obvious reasons...

Probably alive
by: Anonymous

Don't worry! It takes a couple of days for an American swallowtail to pupate. In one experience it took up to a week and she was still fine. No matter what, don't discard it unless it's soft and inactive. If it's stiff then don't throw it out. That means it is alive and making its chrysalis. I hope your butterfly is happy and healthy and I hope that my explanation has helped.

Love this site!
by: NurseJan

I found a lovely green caterpillar on our parsley last night before a big rain storm and brought it inside. I call all my "caterpiggles" Katy. I put her in a jar with some parsley and dill but she seemed to be searching for something else and wouldn't eat. Also seemed a bit sluggish though she's fat and healthy looking. So I went out in the pouring rain and snipped off a tree twig.
This morning she had attached to it with her head and tail. I researched to find out what she would turn into and think she's a black swallowtail. Two years ago I reared a great swallowtail successfully but with that Katy took a couple of months in the chrysalis and I was sure she was dead!
My question is how do I know if she's just going to molt or if she's ready to morph? Do I need to put fresh herbs in the bowl and keep it covered (she escaped last night, found her in the sink)? Thanks so much for helping us beginners out!

Karen says:
Glad you are enjoying the website! It it is a black swallowtail, you can feed it parsley (just cut off the stems a little and put in a narrow vase). If it isn't interested in eating then it is probably ready for the chrysalis stage. Find a stick or container with a netting on top for it to attach to - you will have to keep an eye on it or put in a cage because they tend to wander at this stage (I have found chrysalis at various places in my house :) Good luck and I hope you get to see the actual changes from one stage to the is amazing!!

spoke too soon
by: Rebecca

So this morning we checked on him and he had pupated overnight! He was attached with thread at his head and tail - not in the middle and hung there for a full 3 days. The kids are all excited cuz we swore he had to be dead.

Our next question is: will he be emerging yet this fall or staying in the chrysalis until spring? It's getting cold here in Michigan, and the butterfly flowers are about done for the season.

Karen says:
My guess is that they will overwinter. You can put them in your garage for the winter until it warms up in late spring.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Butterfly Questions.