My daughter found the caterpillar during a hike in Wright Park on Labor Day 2020.
We hadn’t seen this type of caterpillar before, its bands of green interspersed with black and gold dots. Thankfully we were with friends who knew: “It’s a swallowtail caterpillar.”
Could we bring it home to hatch? my children wanted to know.
We could try.
We installed the caterpillar in our butterfly house, where it coexisted with our final monarch butterfly chrysalis of the season. We researched what swallowtail caterpillars eat (plants in the carrot family) and picked it plenty of Queen Anne’s Lace leaves from our yard. We didn’t have to wait long: After a couple of days, the caterpillar had enclosed itself into a chrysalis hanging from the top rim of the butterfly house. Unlike the lovely green-and-gold chrysalis of the monarch butterfly, the swallowtail chrysalis looked more like a dead, rolled-up leaf.
Having raised numerous monarch butterflies, we knew how to wait. We waited and waited. Our final monarch butterfly hatched and was released. Still, we waited for the swallowtail.