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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Late in the Season?

Last week's Friday Funnies drew a lot of comments. Thanks to all who told me it was an amazing capture. Sometimes, the unexpected happens when I take my camera and go exploring, many times close to home.


There were quite a few of these colorful caterpillars on the dill which was growing unexpectedly and very late in the season in our small garden -- long after the tomatoes and peppers had been harvested and enjoyed by Grenville and myself. 

And, just as unexpectedly and late, there were up to a dozen of these caterpillars on nearly every available dill stalk.

When these larvae mature, they become eastern black swallowtail butterflies. The host plant is any of the carrot family: dill, parsley, fennel and others. The adult female lays fertilized yellow eggs on the host plant. The stages (instars) feed voraciously on the host plant as they mature. Many dill plants were already stripped of their leaves.

This is a younger version of this caterpillar larvae. Its "skin" is armor-like with spikes of bright orange. Several of these were munching on parsley. Two weeks earlier, I saw over a dozen of these in the dill and parsley.; all were gone by morning, perhaps as a bird treat? 

Later, I read that not seeing a black swallowtail chrysalis is not unusual; the instars hide in nearby vegetation, then later string up and morph into a chrysalis and then a butterfly.


The (Eastern) Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) is also called the American Swallowtail or Parsnip Swallowtail. It's the state butterfly of Oklahoma and is found throughout much of North America.

11 comments:

Out on the prairie said...

Pretty cool, I just let dill come up all over. I like to use it in cooking so want to have a bit saved. Maybe they will return next season as butterflies.

Montanagirl said...

Very striking colors!

Sandra said...

your photos are fantastic of this gorgeous creature

Emma Springfield said...

The caterpillars are so colorful and pretty. It must have been quite a sight to see a whole "herd" of them. And the dill makes my mouth water (and pucker just a bit). It is a flavor that I really like.

barbara l. hale said...

A beautiful caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly. Isn't nature wonderful? Love your photos.

A Quiet Corner said...

What a beauty!!!!...:)JP

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

These "cats" are very beautiful, indeed. But, my favorite of all the caterpillars is the Wooly Bear. They are just so darn cute!

William Kendall said...

Marvelous colours on them.

Cattails said...

Incredible photos. I remember growing dill and parsley one summer.

Daisy said...

They are colorful creatures, but they sure can strip a plant quickly when they are hungry.

Ludwig Keck said...

Awesome!

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