Up until this point, I may have had the Swallowtails in a jar or container with a loose lid or netting. But now it starts to get interesting and I like to watch them eat and grow, although it can make a small mess.
Usually I gather fresh host plant and put it in a vase with newspaper underneath so I can observe the caterpillars literally grow before my eyes. The newspaper catches the frass, or caterpillar poop, that the caterpillars produce in volume.
The small, black odorless pellet-like droppings may seem gross, but they’re actually not. Well, maybe for some people. Generally I will set such a vase in a highly trafficked place in my home or office so I won’t miss the action in the course of any day. (Yes, I’ve been known to take caterpillars to work.)
The caterpillars will continue to eat and morph for about 10 days. What’s amazing is how different they look at each stage.
As they move through their instars, they completely transform, going from the unremarkable black cat with a white band to a prickly orange, white and black form, then to a black, green, yellow and white-striped creature often confused with Monarch caterpillars.