Guest Blogger, Sheryl Ochs

On a jaunt to the garden to retrieve some herbs for my freshly cooked carrots, I paused in surprise to see 12 small black caterpillars, each with a tiny white stripe in the middle, chomping away on my only parsley plant.

Caterpillars on parsley.

Caterpillars happily munch parsley leaves.

I knew that parsley was a butterfly host plant, and I knew that Swallowtail butterflies were partial to it, but the only ones I’d noticed before were bigger, fatter and striped with yellow/green.

Seeking advice from a trusted website, I discovered the tiny black caterpillars were indeed the first instars of the caterpillars on their way to becoming Swallowtail butterflies. As I watched what I called “my children” grow, I saw each of the four instar stages in which they shed their skin.

Each morning and evening I’d head to the garden to make certain they had not succumbed to hungry birds or other predators and each time I was relieved to count 12.

Swallowtail Caterpillars

Caterpillars on parsley.

Before the caterpillars finally vacated, they mostly decimated my parsley leaving only a small sprig for my next dish of carrots. A small price to pay for the pleasure of watching them grow to adulthood. Now they’ve meandered off to form their chrysalises and I anxiously await an influx of beautiful butterflies to grace my yard.

 

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Black Swallowtail butterfly on cup plant.

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