Wisconsin Native Caterpillars
Black Swallowtail Caterpillar
Genus-Species: Papilio polyxenes
Description: Young caterpillars resemble bird droppings:
dark brown with white “saddle.” Older larvae are bright green with black dashes and yellow dots
that form bands on each body segment. This coloration is cryptic: it camouflages them with their
environment. However, caterpillar color is variable and some be predominantly black.
Chrysalis: Mottled brown or gray; or green with yellow
highlights. Color depends on season and surface texture. The short day lengths (photoperiods)
of fall produce brown pupae.
Host Plants: Alexanders - Heart-leaved golden
alexander (Zizia aptera), Golden alexander (Zizia aurea), Yellow pimpernel (Taenidia integerrima),
Sweet cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii), Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) and Angelica
Habitat: Open areas; fields, meadows and parks where
its larval hosts are found.
Comments: The Black Swallowtail is a common
butterfly in Wisconsin. It commonly feeds on many different members of the Parsley family,
including parsley, carrots, dill, and parsnip. It may also feed on Common Rue (Ruta graveolens),
a domesticated herb.
Caterpillars come in many colors, shapes, and sizes. Some caterpillars are quite hairy,
while others are smooth. Despite differences between species, though, all caterpillars
share certain morphological features.
Take this quick quiz and see how much you know about caterpillars. This quiz is intended for fun, in
a random-facts-can-be-cool kind of way.
How does this magic happen? Learn about metamorphosis - the process of transformation from an
immature form to an adult bitterfly.