The Caterpillars are Here!

22 Jun
Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar on Carrot Greens

Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar on Carrot Greens

Audrey and I saw our first Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly of the season last week out in the garden.  We noticed it hovering around the carrots and I was hopeful.  (I also saw a beautiful Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly last week walking down Clinton, just past the corner with Tillary and Court — I guess it’s that time!)  Two days ago, I saw what I thought might be eggs on the carrot leaves . . . and then this morning, THERE THEY WERE.

Carrots, dill, fennel, parsley and other members of the plant family Apiaceae are host plants for swallowtail butterflies.  Last year we kept buying dill from the farmers’ market to keep our caterpillars in food.  I’m thinking maybe next year we could just plant a bunch of carrots; by the time there were about ready to harvest, the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars would be around to eat all the greens.  When the greens were gone, we could harvest and eat the carrots!

Interestingly, none of the specific host plants mentioned above are native species . . . so the gardener at this website started a search for plants the caterpillars must have eaten before we brought all these non-natives into our gardens . . .  Planting native swallowtail butterfly host plants could be an interesting project for next year, too!


5 Responses to “The Caterpillars are Here!”

  1. Anonymous June 22, 2013 at 2:22 PM #

    so cool! of course they come as soon as I leave town (the monarchs will wait for me, I’m sure) very exciting– do you think we could use the open garlic bed half for carrots? -DM

    • sansley June 22, 2013 at 3:45 PM #

      I was planning to plant the open half of the garlic bed with squash, including pumpkins. The thought was they would start to grow and could expand into the other half of the bed when we harvest the rest of the garlic in July.

      We have quite a few carrot greens for the caterpillars to go through, even with the relatively small number we planted this year, also, carrots are pretty slow to germinate and grow . . . and like cool weather, so I’m not sure how much luck we’d have putting them in now. I may try to plant some dill and parsley in the empty window boxes so offer an alternative host plant. I read somewhere that once they’ve eaten from one particular kind of host plant, they won’t change, but I’m not sure that’s true . . .

  2. alternahealthgrrrl June 22, 2013 at 2:23 PM #

    also, should we forward this to the CV parents group as well as cvearthlab?


  1. Can You Spy the Butterfly? | Concord Village EarthLab - June 6, 2014

    […] we’ve seen firsthand, these and other butterflies like to lay eggs on host plants like our carrot, fennel, and dill so the newly hatched caterpillars have food to eat. (Before they start their […]

  2. Is This A Pupa? A Butterfly That Overwintered On Milkweed? | Concord Village EarthLab - March 18, 2018

    […] stories: Plants In Our Butterfly-Friendly Garden ; June 2013 Caterpillar Spottings; Even Our Small Garden Can Help Native Bees! ; Monarch Butterfly Plants In Our […]

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