the hungry caterpillar

2. August 2012 03:20

A few days ago I brought in a handful of parsley from the garden. When I rinsed it off, I discovered that there were two uninvited caterpillars munching on the leaves. I shook them off outside and finished.

The next morning when I went out to check the garden, I remembered the caterpillars and decided I should check to see if there were more. If my garden was being invaded by a bunch of ravenous crawlers, the sooner I discovered the problem and protected my plants, the better. After looking around, I found two more. They were a lot more interesting looking that the usual suspects -- black with orange spots. Were they bad guys I should feed to the birds or lizards or were these the juvenile form of a pretty moth or butterfly? I tried to identify them from an online reference but had no luck. Since the Master Gardeners have a volunteer in the agriculture commission office nearby on Wednesday, I decided to keep the caterpillars alive and eating until then and see if they could help with the identification.

This morning I was completely surprised by what I saw in the bug jar. They had changed their appearance overnight and now were black and green striped with yellow spots. And I was pretty sure I had seen something like that among the online photos. Sure enough, they matched the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly . The information about the parsley family being the preferred host plant was perfect. I don't recall ever seeing a swallowtail butterfly around, but apparently they decided that my parsley was a good place for their babies to hatch. Now that I know they exist, I will have to keep an eye out for the adult butterflies. Meanwhile the two captives have been returned to the garden.

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