What a beauty!!
This morning on my windy walk on the Delta dyke (112th) as a wandered out to the water across the swampy shore I spotted a beautiful painted caterpillar on a plant, it was the Black Swallowtail caterpillar! It’s caterpillar is light brownish and white when young and looks like bird poop when small, to protect it from predators. The female will lay up to 200 to 400 pale yellow eggs, op on the surface of the leaf of the host plants, the carrot family,which includes, wild carrot, fennel, parsley, celery, dill and water hemlocks (not related to the trees ) She will lay them at a rate of 30 to 50 a day. Eggs will turn dark grey closer to hatching which takes about 10 to 12 days. The lifespan of a swallow tail is a mere 12 days, but can sometimes be found to live to 30 days. It’s favorite nectar plants for the adult butterfly are milkweed, clover and thistle . This swallowtail caterpillar was feeding on the very toxic Poison Hemlock!!! It would certainly be a very good deterrent to any bird attempting to feed on it! Poison Hemlock has been introduced here in North America from Europe where it is an ornamental plant, a biennial, toxic to livestock and humans alike!!! In Europe Hemlock was used to reverse strychnine poisoning! Socrates was forced to eat Hemlock mixed with an opiate (no pain) and died in sleep. Hemlock is also called spotted cowbane, due to the obvious red spots and veins in its stems. Ingestion of poison hemlock in any quantity can result in death or permanent neurological damage of the central nervous system. Nausea and tremors can occur within 30 minutes followed by severe cramps, projectile vomiting and convulsions! The chemical is a cicotoxin. Note: if you are not sure what plant you are looking at while strolling your hood, check underneath for red marks, if it is in your yard, use gloves pull it out and burn or garbage it! (I am wondering, if this plant’s toxins would work on getting rid of rats…)