June: Eastern Black Swallowtails

We started our Shamrock butterfly program by raising Eastern Black Swallowtails.

Butterfly eggs can be hard to spot. But Eastern Blacks lay round, bright yellow eggs that stand out clearly. Plant parsley, fennel or another host plant in your yard or in a pot, and you’ll probably get some.

Young Eastern Black caterpillars are black with a white band around the middle. Like other Swallowtails, they look like an unappetizing bite of bird poop.

As they shed their skins to grow, they develop stripes and brighter colors.

When disturbed, they stick out orange horns, called osmeterium, and make a bad smell.

They make beautiful, green or brown chrysalises that look like tiny owls or cats or mummies. Spring and summer caterpillars stay in their chrysalises about two weeks. Fall caterpillars hibernate in theirs all winter.

If you are interested in raising some caterpillars from your garden, you can find cage-building and care instructions here.

A Year in Shamrock’s Gardens, the 2020 calendar produced by the Shamrock Gardens PTA, celebrates 10 years of our school’s butterfly gardens. Thanks to Lexie Longstreet for the generous donation that allowed us to give a calendar to every family and staff member at the school.