How to Raise a Tiger

(Fans of Tiger King, this is not going to be what you think it is. You’re welcome to stay and learn about swallowtails.)

The second week of August, there was a little ‘poop’ on a leaf of chokecherry in my yard.

August 12, 2021

I brought it inside to a butterfly pupation tent. As it was the only one found on the tree (and females lay many eggs per tree) I knew something had been predating the eggs and caterpillars. I was hoping to give this little cat a chance at survival.

August 16, 2021

Slowly it grew bigger. And greener. And it’s actual head (pink!) could be seen from certain angles.

August 19, 2021

It molted from “baby caterpillar in poop’s clothing” to “caterpillar tween in snake’s clothing”

August 20, 2021

Incognito with eye spots and a green coat, the little “snake” would show its osmeterium to try to fool those who disturbed it (me).

September 1, 2021

Speed of growth has really increased in the past week.

Here’s lookin’ at you! Only, not really. Those are just very cool eye spots!

Every few days, I put a fresh twig of chokecherry or tart cherry in the tent. Mostly though, the cat stays on one leaf on the silk mattress it has woven, and eats the leaves closest to it. Not a lot of action (though there is a lot of cat scat these days). Daily, I gently mist the leaves with water (never spraying directly on the caterpillar) to increase humidity in the tent.

September 4, 2021

Brown and on the mesh of the pupation tent. It’s time to chrysalize!

Unlike Monarchs (above) who have very predictable molting and pupation times (I usually know to-the-day when a butterfly will eclose), swallowtails take whatever amount of time they need to develop.

The Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar featured in this post might not be a butterfly until next Spring. Update! She eclosed on September 30!

Meanwhile, the Eastern Black Swallowtail chrysalis is in a pupation tent outside so it can experience natural temperature changes that will affect its development. Now that it’s already September, I think it might not eclose this year. Perhaps both swallowtails will await to be butterflies in 2022.

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