Gravestones! Ghosts! Goblins! exoSkeletons! You may have seen some of these at the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden this last day of October. Several black swallowtail caterpillars cling to the fennel. Will they grow large enough before the first frost to form chrysalises in which they can overwinter? As each races time and matures from one instar* to another, it sheds its exoskeleton, often devouring it for nourishment. Today’s demonstration seems to be in the Halloween spirit. Hope your treats are as satisfying.
These photos Black Swallowtail caterpillars at the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden were taken by Elaine L. Mills © 2018.
*”Caterpillars go through 5 stages of growth. Each stage is called an “instar.”
As a caterpillar grows, it “molts” 5 times before it becomes a chrysalis. Each time it molts the caterpillar progresses to the next instar (1st instar, 2nd instar, 3rd instar, 4th instar and 5th instar).
Its skeleton is on the outside of its body, like clothes. So, as it grows, it can no longer fits in its skin.”
from Journey North
Thanks to the Certified Extension Master Gardeners who contributed to this post.
Video by Mary Free, photos by Elaine Mills, and links from Judy Funderburk
Here are additonal websites with more information on Black Swallowtails: