We had already had our first frost, but temperatures had then shot back up into the 70's - a typical North Carolina weather fluctuation. The caterpillars were all eating as fast as they could, which was smart, as cold temperatures were again rapidly approaching.
Indeed, a few days later the weather turned cold again. I went back to see how the caterpillars fared and found two left sunning themselves on the plant. They were not moving at all in the chilly morning air.
I hoped that they were contemplating making a cocoon as time was running out - temperatures were about to dip below freezing for a couple nights in a row.
Black swallowtails survive the winter in their pupal stage, hibernating in their chrysalis (cocoon). I went back a few days later to see if I could spot any signs of the caterpillars.
All I could find was an empty chrysalis. It was probably from an earlier caterpillar, as it takes around 10 days for a caterpillar to transform into a butterfly and it had not been that long yet. I could not find any other cocoons, but they are meant to be hard to find!
I hope that the caterpillars are all curled up and deep in sleep somewhere for the winter, waiting for they day they can emerge in spring as beautiful black swallowtail butterflies.
And hopefully some will come visit!