Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Rain showers my spirit
and waters my soul.
~Emily Logan Decens

Finally, today we are getting rain! Much, much, much needed rain!

And while I was outside enjoying it, I noticed a bunch of caterpillars on my parsley plants. What are these?! I once heard that caterpillers on dill and other herbs actually turn into butterflys. Hmmmm....I had to go and google this and here's what I found.

"It's the caterpillar of the beautiful black swallowtail butterfly. This butterfly is commonly seen in our gardens during summer. These caterpillars feed on plants in the parsley family. This includes parsley, Queen Ann's lace, carrots, celery and dill.

The adult lays eggs on these plants, which hatch into tiny dark colored caterpillars with a white band. These go through several stages of development. The mature caterpillar is about 2 inches long and is distinctive with a basic yellow-green color and black and yellow banding. This is the stage you are seeing on your parsley. An environmentally concerned herb gardener may then be confronted with a quandary about caterpillars on the parsley and dill. Do you destroy the caterpillar, or do you decide to sacrifice the parsley, knowing that you are adding to their numbers?

As with most choices, there may be a middle ground. Divide the parsley into "yours" and "theirs" and every few days relocate the caterpillars from yours to theirs. You might consider planting more parsley and dill next year. Your big, colorful caterpillar will develop into a pupa, a resting stage inside a protective covering, called a chrysalis. In summer, after about 10 days, the mature butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. In the fall, the pupa will remain in the protective shell over winter, emerging in the following spring. The adult butterflies are 3-4 inches across, black with either a band or row of yellow spots near the back of its wings. The female has a prominent iridescent blue band on the hind wing. They are a cause for stopping your watering and weed pulling and admiring their beauty."

I guess I'll be planting more parsley and dill next year! I'm looking forward to seeing the beautiful black swallowtail butterfly gracefully flitting to and fro around the garden.
Nature brings with it wonderful surprises.


Jan said...

Beautiful. I love all of nature too. It has all kinds of surprises and pleasures around every corner. Thanks Donna.

Pat said...

I planted dill a couple of years in a row and it was taken over by caterpillers almost overnight and all eaten. I guess I did my part to add to the butterfly population :-) I hope we get some rain --it's been a while since we've had some here!

Hugs, Pat

Susie Q said...

Your posts are alwasy so lovely...and what a sweet rain! We got a bit yesterday and hope to see some more today. It has been a LONG dry spell!


Rhondi said...

Hi Donna
Lucky you when the butterflies hatch out!

Donna said...

WoW! How neat! They look big!!hughugs

Mimi Sue said...

Looks like you have a beautiful garden. A couple years ago we had something similar on our tomatos. It took about 48 hours for those catepillars (is that how to spell that?)to eat all the leaves off 2 large tomato plants! Hope these won't do as much damage...Mimi

Firefly Hill said...

Hi Donna,

I hope we get your rain!! We need it so badly dry and pretty brown here.


Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio said...

I am reading this at night and I want to run out with a flashlight and look at my parsley to see if I have them too! How wonderful!
p.s. isn't the rain wonderful!

Happy @ Home said...

Hi Donna,

Glad to hear you are getting the rain too.

I have had the caterpillars on my parsley in past years. I usually let them have a few plants, but I have never picked them up and moved them. I love the butterflies so much that I feel the tradeoff is worth it.


Meggie said...

As far as caterpillars go, they are quite handsome. How lovely that you are providing the habitat for future butterflies. We, too, are finally getting!

KarenHarveyCox said...

These caterpillers look animated, I can only imagine what the butterfly looks like. Such beautiful creatures. Karen