We need more info on swallowtail care

by Shawna
(Kansas City, MO, USA)

I was hesitant to let my daughter bring home a caterpillar from a garden, because I know so many kids do and they die. We put it in a plastic box about the size of a shoe box with netting on top, wet cotton balls inside, and kept returning to the garden to get more of the plant she found it on to feed it. We sprayed the box lightly with water daily because it seemed to get so dry in there so fast.

Later, I put in a couple of branched sticks and it seemed to do O.K. for a week or two and then spent a day or so crawling all over the habitat, not eating, but checking out every single square centimeter of the box and sticks. It stopped at one place on a stick and just sat there for a couple of days. I thought it was dead for sure. I felt so bad. I swore we would never keep any creature again. Then, the night before last, I looked in there, and there was no caterpillar! Sure enough, it had transformed into the chrysalis stage! Now, with it being late September, what can we expect and what exactly should we do? I mean, I don't even know if I can move the stick out of the box? I feel like it should be cleaned. I know I read that it should perhaps go into an unheated garage? Here in Kansas City, we might still have hot days. What do we do in the spring? Do we need to do anything before then? I need specifics because I really care about this little guy (girl?)! Thank you! Shawna

Karen says:
It is difficult to determine what will happen with your chrysalis....I just had some black swallowtail butterflies emerge up here in Minnesota in the last week, so depending upon your weather maybe yours will also. (clean the box either way, though) It is possible that this is the overwintering generation...in which case I would put it outside in a garage or I have read about putting the chrysalis in the frig. I have not done this, though, so I do not know exactly how to care for it there.

Any of my readers have ideas????

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A couple more questions
by: Shawna

How long does it take a swallowtail to hatch if it does not hybernate over the winter (a normal hatching)? Also, if I move the stick to clean the box, will the chrysalis fall off. What happens if a chrysalis does fall off of it's stick? Thanks!

Karen says:
My last swallowtails took quite a while (3-4 weeks) to emerge. It can vary and at this time of year is unpredictable. If you move the stick carefully it shouldn't fall off (think of the wind, rain and weather it goes through outside). If it did fall off you could try using thread to hang it from a branch. Hope this helps.

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