Do Black Swallowtail Butterflies Eat Carrots?

Are you curious about rising carrots and different backyard crops to draw black swallowtail butterflies?

These pollinators could make their houses in our gardens at many alternative levels of their lives. They’re a sight to see within the yard or backyard – each of their larval kinds and once they take flight as winged beauties!

A close up horizontal image of a black swallowtail butterfly larva eating a carrot plant.

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Whether or not you need to learn to entice these pollinators to your yard or are questioning if the caterpillars are going to harm your carrots or different crops, on this article we’ll present the solutions you’re in search of.

Able to be taught extra about these caterpillars and their meals preferences? Right here’s what we’ll cowl:

What Are Black Swallowtail Butterflies?

The black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) is an attractive winged insect whose native vary is within the jap, central, and southwestern areas of the US.

These lepidopterans, members of the taxonomic order Lepidoptera, consisting of butterflies and moths, are additionally present in Canada in Quebec and Saskatchewan, in addition to in Central America and the northern a part of South America.

A close up horizontal image of a black swallowtail butterfly feeding from a yellow flower.
Black swallowtail (P. polyxenes).

They’re massive flying bugs, with a wingspan of three and 1 / 4 to 4 and 1 / 4 inches.

Like different species within the Papilionidae or swallowtail butterfly household, these creatures have distinctive lobes on their rear wings, paying homage to the tails of swallowtail birds.

Also called American swallowtail, caraway worm, celery worm, parsley swallowtail, parsley worm, or parsnip swallowtail, these butterflies have distinctive markings on each the highest sides and the decrease surfaces of their wings.

Wings have a black background, and each women and men have a single reddish-orange spot with a black bullseye on the again central edge of every wing. These dots are seen on each the higher and decrease wing surfaces.

A close up horizontal image of a female black swallowtail butterfly feeding on a pink flower pictured on a soft focus background.
Feminine black swallowtail butterfly.

On the highest surfaces of the wings, women and men have a row of yellow dots close to the sides.

Above these yellow dots, females have a band of blue markings, and small, pale yellow dots above the blue.

A close up horizontal image of a male black swallowtail butterfly on a plant.
P. polyxenes male.

Males, however, have faint blue dots, with a band of huge, yellow dots above the blue.

The undersides of the wings look the identical on male and females – and you could not have realized that there are literally two units of wings, the forewings and the hindwings.

A close up horizontal image of two black swallowtail butterflies feeding on yellow lantana flowers pictured on a soft focus background.
Female and male P. polyxenes foraging collectively.

When the wings of those bugs are closed, the underside surfaces are revealed, displaying two rows of pale yellow dots on the forewings, and on the hindwings, a powdery wanting shading of pale blue between two rows of orange markings.

The Black Swallowtail Life Cycle

If you wish to help these pollinators by rising carrots in your backyard, you’ll have to know how you can acknowledge them not solely of their grownup type, however in any respect levels of their life cycle.

In spite of everything, you possibly can’t have butterflies with out caterpillars!

This parsley worm life cycle consists of 4 fundamental levels: egg, larva, pupa, and grownup.

Parsley Worm Eggs

Figuring out how you can acknowledge the eggs of those lepidopterans is essential, particularly as you go about harvesting your backyard herbs – and veggies comparable to carrots.

Grownup feminine butterflies lay spherical, pale yellow eggs on host crops.

A horizontal image of black swallowtail butterfly eggs on carrot foliage pictured on a soft focus background.
Eggs on parsley leaves, not but able to hatch.

About 9 days later, the eggs will hatch. Shortly earlier than hatching although, the eggs flip a darkish coloration, nearly black.

You’ll be taught extra about which host crops are favored later on this article, however these within the carrot household, Apiaceae, comparable to parsley are clear favorites, so be sure you examine the foliage for eggs earlier than harvesting.

Fortunately, most of us are harvesting our herbs in a cut-and-come-again fashion, so there must be loads of foliage to share, permitting you to depart any parsley worm eggs safely hooked up to the foliage.


After the eggs hatch, small caterpillars emerge and through a interval of 10 to 30 days, these larvae dwell and feed on host crops, and are solely round a sixteenth of an inch lengthy.

Throughout this larval interval, caterpillars develop into 5 totally different levels, known as instars.

As they transition to every new instar, the larva molts, leaving its outdated pores and skin behind and rising greater than it was earlier than.

First Instar

First instar larvae, that’s to say the youngest and tiniest parsley worm caterpillars, are black with a white mark within the center, sometimes called a saddle.

A close up horizontal image of a first instar of a black swallowtail caterpillar pictured on a soft focus background.

They’re about an eighth of an inch lengthy, and still have orange spots and black spikes.

This coloration serves as camouflage, making these caterpillars look very very like chicken droppings!

Second Instar

As larval caterpillars develop, they enter the subsequent stage referred to as the second instar, reaching a couple of quarter of an inch lengthy.

A close up horizontal image of the second instar of a black swallowtail caterpillar on a leaf.
Second instar parsley worm.

On this stage the caterpillars are black with orange spots and black spikes which are literally hairs. The white saddle is now not very distinct.

Third Instar

When certainly one of these caterpillars molts and emerges as a 3rd instar, it’s vivid inexperienced or white with black stripes and orangish yellow spots.

A close up horizontal image of the third instar of a black swallowtail caterpillar munching on carrot foliage.
Third instar.

At this stage, the parsley worms nonetheless have little spikes on their our bodies and are about half an inch lengthy.

Fourth Instar

Of their fourth instar, the striped coloration is extra outlined, and it grows even bigger and now has white prolegs with black dots.

The spikes on the physique are now not current and by this stage the caterpillars are round an inch lengthy.

A close up horizontal image of a caterpillar consuming its shed skin after molting.
Fourth instar, consuming its molted pores and skin.

All through the larval levels, after parsley worms step out of their outdated skins, they use these discarded layers as a nourishing meal.

Fifth Instar

The fifth instar is the final larval stage.

A close up horizontal image of a black swallowtail caterpillar feeding on a fennel stem, pictured on a soft focus background.
Fifth instar.

On this section, these caterpillars are a lot simpler to identify within the backyard due to their massive dimension, at this stage they’re about two inches lengthy.

You could have had these larvae residing on the carrots in your backyard with out noticing them till now!


After the fifth instar, the caterpillar is able to pupate, starting its metamorphosis right into a butterfly.

A close up horizontal image of a pupating black swallowtail caterpillar on a branch, pictured on a soft focus background.
Pupating celery worm caterpillar.

To anchor itself for this section, the caterpillar attaches itself to a stem with a silk sling, with its head pointed upwards.

Inside a day or two, it is going to shed its pores and skin but once more, revealing the chrysalis.

A close up horizontal image of a chrysalis of a black swallowtail butterfly on a stem pictured on a dark background.
P. polyxenes chrysalis.

The chrysalis will be inexperienced or brown, relying on the season and the kind of stem the pupa is anchored to. The colour of the chrysalis will mix into its environment.


Throughout spring and summer time, the pupal stage lasts for as much as 18 days. Some pupae additionally overwinter, ready for spring earlier than popping out of their chrysalises.

A horizontal image of a black swallowtail butterfly emerging from a chrysalis pictured on a blue sky background.
Butterfly rising from chrysalis.

As soon as a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, this flying bug with a three- to four-inch wingspan is able to begin in search of a mate.

Females then lay eggs on host plant materials comparable to carrot leaves and the cycle continues.

Do Parsley Worms Injury Carrots?

Now that you know the way to acknowledge these fascinating bugs in all their life levels, are you questioning if they’re backyard pals or foes?

Black swallowtail butterflies are thought of pollinators, though they will not be fairly as environment friendly at this activity as bees.

A horizontal image of a black swallowtail butterfly landing on a yellow wild parsnip plant pictured on a soft focus background.

Whereas they will not be as environment friendly as bees for pollinating crops, since butterflies fly lengthy distances, they assist guarantee genetic variety in crops by transferring pollen from flower to flower.

Meaning we should always think about them to be helpful bugs in our gardens to a point!

After all, then we’ve to contemplate any injury that black swallowtail butterfly larvae may do to our crops.

A horizontal image of black swallowtail caterpillars feeding on fennel plants in the garden.

There must be appreciable injury to the crop earlier than pesticide use is warranted – one thing that enormous scale farmers are effectively conscious of, however yard gardeners might not think about.

Normally, the presence of parsley worms doesn’t do sufficient injury to crops to warrant contemplating them as pests.

Nonetheless, when these caterpillars are quite a few within the backyard, there are occasions when they could eat extra herbs or veggie greens than you had hoped.

To forestall crop loss, moderately than resorting to chemical controls, think about using obstacles to maintain these bugs away from crops you could need to defend, comparable to carrots.

Pest Management Pop Ups are cages made with metal helps and nylon mesh material that assist preserve adults from touchdown in your crop to put eggs.

A close up square image of a raised garden bed with pest control pop up protectors.

Pest Management Pop Ups

Pest Management Pop Ups can be found in three sizes: two-by-two toes, four-by-four toes, and four-by-eight toes. You should buy them from Gardener’s Provide.

If you have already got caterpillars munching in your crops and are in search of an moral resolution to defending your herbs or veggies, think about relocating these bugs to wild host crops comparable to Queen Anne’s lace.

Preserve studying to study extra host plant choices for these pollinators – that’s our subsequent matter!

Carrots and Different Host Vegetation for Parsley Worms

You now know what to anticipate from these butterflies, and it’s time to learn to entice them by offering them with meals in a wildlife-friendly backyard.

These butterflies use umbellifers – often known as Apiaceae or members of the carrot household – and different comparable crops as larval host crops.

A horizontal image of a black swallowtail butterfly laying eggs on a flowering dill plant.
Feminine laying eggs.

Are you questioning what the time period “host plant” means precisely?

When females are mature and able to lay eggs, they search out egg-laying areas that may present appropriate meals, referred to as host crops, for his or her offspring.

Some bugs want particular forms of crops for his or her infants.

Carrots are a favourite host plant, however they aren’t the one choice. These butterflies may also use different members of the carrot household which are frequent in vegetable gardens together with parsley, fennel, and celery.

One other carrot relative, dill, is in style with these bugs and different helpful bugs as effectively – I wouldn’t develop a wildlife-friendly backyard with out it!

A close up of a packet of Bouquet dill seeds with a hand-drawn illustration on the right of the frame and tex to the left.

Bouquet Dill Seeds

You will discover packets of dill seeds obtainable at Botanical Pursuits.

Along with Queen Anne’s lace, there are another carrot relations that may function hosts for black swallowtail butterfly larva as effectively.

These embrace poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), water hemlock (Cicuta maculata), wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), and golden alexander (Zizia aurea).

Golden alexander is a wildflower within the carrot household that’s indigenous to jap and central North America and can be utilized in native plant landscaping to assist help wildlife.

A square image of a golden alexander flower pictured on a soft focus green background.

Golden Alexander Dwell Vegetation

You’ll discover golden alexander crops at Nature Hills Nursery.

Different crops moreover members of the Apiaceae household can function larval hosts for parsley worms too.

These embrace some crops within the citrus household, Rutaceae, comparable to mock bishopweed (Ptilimnium capillaceum), roughfruit scaleseed (Spermolepis divaricata), water cowbane (Oxypolis filiformis), and wedgeleaf eryngo (Eryngium cuneifolium).

Extra Ideas for Supporting Black Swallowtails

Whereas offering these butterflies with carrots and a few of their different favourite host crops will go a good distance towards supporting them, there are extra actions you possibly can take as effectively.

A close up horizontal image of a butterfly feeding from purple coneflowers growing in the summer garden.

The host crops listed above are species that the swallowtail caterpillars can subsist on – however swallowtail butterflies want nectar!

Adults can forage from a variety of crops together with clover, cosmos, milkweed, phlox, thistles, zinnias, and purple coneflowers.

A square image of purple coneflowers growing in the garden.

Dwell Purple Coneflower Vegetation

You will discover purple coneflower crops obtainable at Nature Hills Nursery.

Along with offering nectar crops, it’s essential to keep away from utilizing each pesticides and herbicides in your yard and backyard.

Even licensed natural pesticides like neem oil will hurt these pollinators, so attempt to take different measures earlier than making use of something which may be poisonous.

Wish to be taught extra? Learn our article to be taught extra about built-in pest administration.

Extra Butterflies, Extra Magnificence

As you’ve realized at the moment, black swallowtail butterflies love to put their eggs on members of the carrot household, which offer meals for his or her younger.

These caterpillars don’t often represent a pest drawback on carrot crops, but when vital, they are often excluded from crops with cages or relocated to different host crops.

A close up horizontal image of a caterpillar feeding on carrot foliage.

Are you attempting to draw parsley swallowtails to your yard?

Inform us about your reference to these stunning butterflies within the feedback part under – and when you have any questions, be sure you drop them there too!

And whilst you’re at it, why not share pictures of the parsnip swallowtails in your backyard patch?

Whilst you’re right here, do you want extra ideas for rising a bountiful carrot crop? We’ve loads of ideas for you proper right here:

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