My Native Front Yard Wildlife Edition – Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

watercolor sketch of a black swallowtail caterpillar eating golden alexander leaf
sketch of the black swallowtail caterpillar

The native plants are working! Look who I found munching on some leaves…. a big juicy black swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes). That means a black swallowtail butterfly must have laid an egg under the leaf of my Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) plant when I wasn’t looking. I’m so excited! See my sketch and story about the Golden Alexander plant here.

black swallowtail caterpillar

Isn’t it beautiful?!? I found it about a week ago. He or she is eating everyday and growing bigger and bigger. I will keep my eyes on it to see where it forms its chrysalis. 

eaten leaves and flowers from the golden alexander plant

I know this is pretty difficult to see, but inside the red circle the leaves and flowers have been chewed off. This is a BIG clue that you have a caterpillar on your plant. Never get upset if your native plants have holes or missing parts all together. It’s a GOOD thing! The native insects need food. They’re just doing their job.

Black swallowtail caterpillars can be found on any plant in the carrot family: Golden Alexander, Queen Anne’s Lace, Parsley, Carrot, Parsnip, Dill, Celery.
A shout out to my nature friends in Oklahoma and New Jersey…..the black swallowtail butterfly is your state butterfly!

When my butterfly emerges, he or she is going to need nectar from milkweed, clover, or thistle. I’VE GOT YOU COVERED….THERE IS MILKWEED IN THE BACKYARD! 



I’ve been trying to record all of the insects that visit the Golden Alexander. Here we have some type of bee to the left and a hover fly to the right. Both are excellent pollinators.

On a side note…I have a girlfriend who has been having a lot of anxiety about the world and the various headline catastrophes in the media lately. I tried to calm her fears and point her in the direction to pray and have faith because God is an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:4).

She denied this advice claiming that God is not here. You can not see Him, therefore He does not help her.

Oh, but can I lovingly plead my case??

Jesus told us: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).


Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5).

When I sketch nature, I study every inch of my subject. Today I learned that the black swallowtail caterpillar has some black spots that touch each other with a very thin line on the dorsal part of the body, some that don’t, and on the sides the black dots are always separate. Why? I don’t know. But God does. Can man create a butterfly from an egg? No, it must go through stages. Every stage is necessary. The whole life-cycle is a plan.

There remains a plan to the chaos in the world. God is in control yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Do not fear.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:6-8).

When I paint nature, I am meditating on those things that are lovely…
May the peace of God protect and guide you. And may you never lose your mustard seed of faith.

Update on the black swallowtail caterpillar:
Unfortunately it’s gone as of July 7, 2020. No chrysalis, no relocation to another plant. Just gone. In my human  failings I anthropomorphized my caterpillar, like it was my baby. I was so upset!! Like really upset. Birds do not eat this caterpillar because of its bitter taste. Perhaps a raccoon came by to have a juicy meal. They’re omnivores and will eat just about anything. I have many raccoons in the neighborhood. I don’t know.

Bottom line is: God’s ways are not my ways. This caterpillar was needed elsewhere. It is well with my soul. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD. Job 1:21

Whether a happy ending or not, I am thankful to be able to share my nature adventures with everyone through this platform. Truly thankful.



  1. Planted two pollinator beds last June and boy you should see them, huge! Lots of Golden Alexander but no sightings of swallowtails yet. I had two monarch’s visit today and I have lots of milkweed for them.

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