Growing a Butterfly…

We love to grow things around here, so why not a butterfly.  We aren’t exactly a butterfly farm, but Finn and I successful observed (and we like to think assisted) the metamorphosis and emergence of one beautiful black swallowtail butterfly into the world.  It wasn’t by accident; it was purely premeditated.  

We planted italian dark green flat leaf parsley last fall and dill this spring in the garden, to share with the swallowtail butterflies.  Then we waited weeks and weeks for their arrival.  They successfully laid eggs on the parsley and those eggs evolved into caterpillars that feasted on the parsley.  Believe me the plant never looked depleted, it was so unwieldy and overgrown by the time of their arrival.  I’m so glad I resisted the frequent urge to take the shears after it.  


I think of all the things I’ve grown in the garden, I was most excited by the discovery of the chubby little butterfly caterpillars.  But then worry set in as their plump little bodies lay on the top of the plant, ripe for the plucking by some feathered friend.  So we devised a plan to “help” the last remaining caterpillar continue it’s metamorphsis in relative safety.


An unused fish tank, some screen and a large rubber band made a perfect new home for the caterpillar.  Stuffed with plenty of fresh parsley to feed the caterpillar for however long it would take for her evolution.


Finn loved watching the caterpillar.  We observed her eating a lot…. she also pooped a lot.  (Yes, I should refer to it as frass, but if anyone has lived with a nine-year-old, you know that you can’t really say poop too much.)  We added a few small canes in the tank. We thought the butterfly would attach her chrysalis to these “sticks.” It didn’t. The caterpillar choose to simply attach to one of the dry stalks of parsley. Below is the bright green chrysalis (cocoon).

We discovered the caterpillar on the parsley on June 26.  We placed it in the fish tank on June 27.  The butterfly formed her chrysalis on approximately July 3 and emerged from it on July 12. Just nine days for a total transformation.  We loved our 19 days with our butterfly.  


We decided to release her in the children’s garden.  I’m glad I took a few pictures of her while in the tank, because the second she emerged out of the tank, she was gone.  Although, it fluttered off on the wind, we like to think we will see it again visiting the gardens, but if nothing else…. we have the memories of growing a butterfly one summer.  

Note:  I believe this butterfly is a female based on her markings…but I’d love confirmation from an expert.  If you can identify the sex of this butterfly, please let me know.


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2 Replies to "Growing a Butterfly..."

  • comment-avatar
    Jane July 20, 2016 (8:31 pm)

    Love this story! Made me smile thinking of the whole adventure. Can’t wait to retire and have time for things like this.

    • comment-avatar
      Amber July 20, 2016 (8:40 pm)

      I’m glad you liked it! We had so much fun! I love anything that gets Finn involved in nature.

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