butterflies · caterpillars · daily life · gardening · photos

Caterpillars & Dill

As some of you know, I have been fascinated by the caterpillars I discovered earlier this year, eating my dill.  A little research told me that they will turn into beautiful swallowtail butterflies.  I was having so much fun watching them munching away.  I would watch them grow, from hatching out of their eggs, to big fat cats, about ready to go into their cocoons.  One evening, I informed my husband that a whole new batch of babies had hatched.  I had about three or four big ones left, and then varying sizes in between them and the hatchlings.  I went out to the dill patch during my lunch hour the next day, and all the big ones were gone.  I figured they had gone off to make cocoons.  Then I noticed the babies were mostly gone, as well as the others.  I found a couple midsize ones, laying on the ground wriggling around dying, with their little orange protector things sticking out on their head.  They poke these orange antenna looking things out when they are threatened, and they emit a bad odor.  I have no idea if they were attacked by ants, wasps, or just what was happening to them, but I was sad.  😦  So, to try to make this long story a little shorter, some more hatched, and I found them dead not much later, just hanging there on the dill.  More eggs have since shown up.  This time, I’ve been waiting for them to hatch.  We did get rid of an ant bed that had appeared under the dill, also, just in case the ants were the bad guys.  I went out and cut the dill stems that had babies on them, and yes, I brought them inside.  So far, so good.  I have left a few outside, to see if they fare better than the others.

These are some of the ones I brought indoors.


These are pics of ones outside, and then, as I was taking a picture of them, I realized how really pretty the dill looks, and just starting taking pics of the dill.

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000_4505.jpg  So then, that started me off on one of those “run around the yard and see what else I can find to take pictures of” sprees.  Therefore, over the next few days, I will be sharing pics with you of the things that caught my eye.  Hope you enjoyed the caterpillar-dill show!  There will be progress reports 🙂 .  I leave you with one of my favorite pics, that I took earlier this summer of a couple of the big ones.          000_4436.jpg


18 thoughts on “Caterpillars & Dill

  1. Those are some more fabulous shots. And I’m laughing because now it is so obvious none of my dill came up. Good thing I didn’t grab anything out of the garden for pickles 😉 Except the cucumbers… and those were fairly obvious….


  2. OK – largest predator group are birds – but you wouldn’t be seeing dead caterpillars as the birds would eat them, I think. They are also susceptible to insecticides (have you sprayed anything close to the dill?) and to parasites (bacterial – nothing you could see with your eye).


  3. I’m thinking that some ants or wasps, maybe some kind of spider…We haven’t sprayed any insecticides, but about a week before they started dying, our lawn care guys sprayed weedcontrol on the lawn. BUT, I went outside while they were doing it, we covered the whole dill section with plastic sheeting, and he stayed back away from there and didn’t spray next to it.


  4. Randi, you might try putting down a terro ant trap a ways away from the bed and when bun bun and puppy are not out and about. We do that occassionally around a garden bed that gets a bit too many ants. They go to the trap and bring it back to their nest, but so far it has not disrupted my butterflies, dragonflies or humming birds that also come to that same bed. I just pick the trap up after 48 hours and pitch it.


  5. I was sorry to here about the plight of you new little friends. I look forward to the results of your picture taking spree.


  6. Hi,

    I too have caterpillars on my dill. I googled for swallowtail butterfly and came up with a bunch of links…but there seems to be a lot of different kinds. Do you know what kind of swallowtail this is?

    Thanks and good luck!


  7. We had a great number of caterpillars on our dill as well. We have set up an aquarium to protect a couple of them from their disappearing act. We feed them fresh dill every couple of days.
    Do you have any advice as to when we should release these ‘black swallowtail butterflies’ ?
    Thank you for the information and the photos.


  8. I found over 15 caterpillars on my dill just now. I cut my dill down a couple of months ago and sprinkled the seed on the soil and new plants are coming up. What a thrill to see the little babies just munching away. What species eat new dill plants?


  9. Just today, my kids found two of these caterpillars in our dill. I couldn’t believe the odor when I stroked his back with a leaf – almost sickeningly sweet. Also, I had never seen orange antennae all-of-a-sudden protrude like that – weird. That’s when I decided to Google and try to find out what type of caterpillar it is. So glad stumbled on your site!


  10. You might look at “dirt daubers,” a type of black wasp. The female with sting a caterpillard, emplant an egg in the caterpillar, and seal it up in a tubular construction, made of wet soil (mud). When the egg hatches, it consumes the caterpillar, which remains alive. Gruesome, but it’s nature. The dirt dauber nests are almost found under overhangs of buildings.


  11. I think I have these caterpillars. They are all over my dill plants which is fine by me. just want to make sure they will not move on to my tomato plants. do you know anything about this -and by the way I am a quilter too! I’ve got a link to my pizza quilt on my business web page


  12. I have a few of these Black Swallowtail caterpillars on my dill, but they have eaten all the dill leaves. I found that they will also eat parsley, fennel, and the green lops of carrots. Does anyone know how long the crysalis stage is?


  13. My wife, Pat, had planted a large pot with various herbs. Today, June 19, she discovered 6 Papilio polyxenas asterius (black swallowtail) caterpillars munching away on her dill. I’m not sure how much more they need to eat. I think I’ll have to get some more ( we only had one plant). They’re 1.5 inches long so they might be close to pupation but I don’t Know.


  14. wasps eat caterpillars. Sadly. We have been attempting to raise them again this year, and even after being brought in we have had about 1/2 die. I don’t know if we brought them in too young because we were trying to protect from wasps. Last year we had close to 30, this year, only 8 have made it so far.


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