Monday, August 18, 2008

Parsley, Dill, Caterpillars, and Time

Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes
My friend Nancy Bea recently wrote about the plethora of pests in her garden this summer. There was one that was so beautiful she couldn't bring herself to kill. I think she was talking about the Black Swallowtail caterpillar, one of the few that is beautiful as a larva as well as an adult. They love parsley, dill, Queen Anne's lace, and carrots. I have a few in my garden as well that I, too, leave alone. In fact, I always have the urge to plant a whole crop of something they'll love in hopes of attracting them. This year, they were lucky enough to find some dill volunteers, since our gardening was completely thrown off by our trip to Barcelona. Course, if you're kind to them, remember they are as ravenous as any other caterpillar (look at the second row picture!)

It seems to be the time for caterpillars. I happened to see some gorgeous Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars the other day and didn't have my camera (gasp!), but of course images of them abound elsewhere.

And I've noticed more and more Monarchs flying around our rather weedy field. They love the clover and then lay their eggs on the also plentiful milkweed.

Monarch butterfly caterpillar, Danaus plexippus

Right behind the house there are a few errant milkweed that have a collection of Monarch caterpillars in each possible stage (instar)... the tiniest dark green baby maybe an eighth of an inch long, the teeny half-inch long toddlers just showing their stripes, up to the beautiful yellow, green, and black striped adults ready to go into those gorgeous gold tipped chrysalises.

Monarch butterfly caterpillar, Danaus plexippus

This one above is probably only in the fourth instar stage. (The fifth and last instar features longer antennae.) I found it on the side of a wooden step, below some milkweed, just hanging out. I think it's probably getting ready to molt.


  1. Cool pix! I'll go and take another look at mine tomorrow. I think my particular parsley and dill ravaging bugs were super stripey...more like the last photo than the first. Are those monarch caterpillars or swallowtails?

  2. The Black Swallowtails look a lot stripier when they get bigger. Mine are really teeny. I went out to the garden to try to photograph them again today, but I couldn't find them. (It doesn't help that the garden is full of weeds :) You can see pictures of bigger Black Swallowtails in the links.

    The stripey ones at the end of my post are Monarchs. We collected a bunch of them today and brought them in to watch them do their stuff. I love watching them turn into butterflies.


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