As I mentioned, a successful garden of this type not only needed to have plants for nectaring visitors but host plants for butterfly larvae. And butterfly larvae were indeed found! In planting rue and dill, I managed to bring in a Black Swallowtail female who laid her eggs on the dill weed. Although I didn't see the eggs, I did end up finding small larvae and in this post I will chronicle the process from the young larvae to the adults.
In mid-July I found some Black Swallowtail cats on the dill weed. There were five all together and at different ages. I monitored them and after a few days could not find any of them. I could only assume they either moved on or were taken as food for the voracious young of a pair of House Wrens that were nesting in a nest box across the yard.
On Wednesday, July 30, upon my arrival home after running some errands, that cat had indeed shed to "fourth instar". I also collected two more cats off the dill weed bring my total to five. One can see the difference in coloration between these two stages. The first, second and third instar cats appear dark with a light band around the middle and are described as looking like bird poo. The fourth instar cat has some striking striped markings and is loosing the spines. Notice the shed skin, which they usually eat.
This cat to the right has moved into fifth instar stage. It has lost the spines and has this beautiful striped coloration with yellow spotting. This one was about 2.5 centimeters long at this point.
With three cats growing incredibly fast, it was time to give them a bit more room. Finding another plastic container, I moved the three larger cats into a tall round container and left the three smaller ones in the square plastic container.