I’m still a little bit obsessed with the Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars, so please forgive the focus on a singular topic.
Pictured above is the second, larger caterpillar displaying his/her osmeterium, a self-protective scent gland that is released when the caterpillar feels threatened. This one released its osmeterium when Davin picked up the container the dill is growing in to get a closer look. Apparently they omit a foul smell the ward off predators but I haven’t noticed anything yet.
I look forward to locating them every morning when I go out to check the plants. So far they are always on the same stems but I suspect they will move soon since you can see this one is overeating the stem it is currently attached to. It’s growing larger with every passing day, too. Right now neither are eating enough to decimate a plant but we’ll see what happens as they grow.
Last year we had the mantids, this year its swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
Over the weekend I discovered that we’ve been hosting a Black Swallowtail buttery caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) on a patch of dill I have growing in a pot on the roof. We have so much dill, losing a plant or two to this little guy/gal is not a burden. I worried the caterpillar might transfer over to the ‘Red Malabar’ spinach growing nearby and start eating that, but thankfully this species only has eyes (or mouth parts) for Umbelliferae family plants such as dill, parsley, ‘Bronze’ fennel, and Queen Anne’s lace.
Maybe we’ll get lucky and see our caterpillar through to the chrysalis stage. We’ll play this song for it when it emerges.
I love these unexpected educations in nature that come from growing a garden. Even a pot on a roof can bring about these sorts of surprises.
UPDATE: Make that two! I just found a second, bigger caterpillar in another pot of dill. I think they need names.
I took this photo in Dominica on an organic farm tour in an area called Bellvue Chopin. Our tour was with Roy Ormond. If you ever get a chance to do a tour I encourage you to seek him out specifically. The farm specializes in traditional herbal medicines and Mr. Ormond was very knowledgeable and generous in sharing that knowledge.
That morning, including these adorable little tortoises, was one of the highlights of my trip.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling too lazy to hand chop, I give dinner’s assorted vegetable scraps a quick whiz in the food processor before feeding the gruel to the worms in my kitchen wormery. I liken it to cutting the food on your kids’ plate into sizes that are manageable for their little mouths. I imagine that my worms’ mouths must be really, really tiny.
To be clear, I’m not saying I think of them as children. We’re not that close, really.
Going to the extra effort really is worth it. The worms process what’s in the bin much faster, and we never suffer from unfortunate smells indoors.
Ingredients seen here: Romaine lettuce cores and blackened bits and paper egg cartons that have been pre-softened in water and ripped by hand.
Imagine one of these munching its way through your garden. I saw this one, and then I saw two others soon after!
Both terrifying (I was initially sure it must be poisonous and stepped back as if it might eat my face) and amazingly beautiful all at once.
Turns out it won’t eat your face or your entire garden, just the frangipani relatives if you have them.