Parsley and dill are not just great seasonings for recipes, they are life choices for the pudgy caterpillar, sometimes called the parsley worm.
If you don’t mind donating a few plants to peruse the mystical journey of the Black Swallowtail, you will truly be rewarded.
If growing herbs like, parsley, is something already done in the neighborhood chances are you have already discovered the little guy in some form or another. Some garden nurseries, or home improvement stores are not really careful with what is wriggling on their plant merchandise, and the parsley worm may come home as a guest. If these options are not available to you, there are butterfly mail order companies.
So, the journey begins. First, if you desire your own share of the herbs, place a net over them, after inspection is made for creatures.
Make sure there is enough plant to swallowtail ratio, keep the plants healthy, and enjoy.
The female Black Swallowtail lays her eggs on the cherished plant. The tiny yellow eggs will be found on the tender leaves, the first food for the babies after a meal of the egg shells. This happens in May or June.
Tiny caterpillars pop up on parsley or dill leaves resembling bird poop, dark bodies with a smeary white drop in the center. As these caterpillars grow, they shed the outer skin. They turn from dark to green or yellow with beautiful black, whitish, and yellow markings of stripes and dots.
Six legs are found in the thoracic segments. The rest of the ‘feet’ are prolegs, used for grasping objects, and walking. The caterpillars respire through breathing holes, or spiracles, on the ventral areas of skin.
These little creatures protect themselves with a nasty odor applied to itself from Y shaped horns, the osmerterium, that jets out at the moment of danger.
When the caterpillars are big and chubby enough, they sometimes seem to disappear. If the caterpillars are not in an enclosure, they tend to wander off to find secure, and stable props, stems, walls to rest and pupate (chrysalis) on.
After a few weeks of what seems like suspended animation, the elegant Black Swallowtail Butterflies emerge. The beautiful creatures stand in the sun to warm and cause circulation to flow throughout the large wings (around July/August).
If you are lucky enough to take pictures of them as they wait to take flight, you may find being luckier when the ‘babies’ come back to start the cycle again.