Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Osmeterium

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I’m still a little bit obsessed with the Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars, so please forgive the focus on a singular topic.

Pictured above is the second, larger caterpillar displaying his/her osmeterium, a self-protective scent gland that is released when the caterpillar feels threatened. This one released its osmeterium when Davin picked up the container the dill is growing in to get a closer look. Apparently they omit a foul smell the ward off predators but I haven’t noticed anything yet.

I look forward to locating them every morning when I go out to check the plants. So far they are always on the same stems but I suspect they will move soon since you can see this one is overeating the stem it is currently attached to. It’s growing larger with every passing day, too. Right now neither are eating enough to decimate a plant but we’ll see what happens as they grow.

Last year we had the mantids, this year its swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.

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Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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4 thoughts on “Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Osmeterium

  1. I love the smell they release. It reminds me of marigolds. You will really enjoy watching them become beautiful butterflies!

  2. Hooray! My students found a bunch of these guys on our monstrous dill plant in the school garden this year. We sat and watched them for a long time each day. Then one day, they were gone! We hope they are happy and come back next year!

  3. … almost makes you want to get the new 3x3x2′ lee valley pop up net shelter for $9.50 to put over your dill so you can see it all happen!

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