Beautiful “worms” on our dill

A beautiful “worm”

It’s time to start looking for big green, black, and gold “worms” chomping away on the flowers and leaves of your dill and other herbs and vegetables.

No—your first thought of killing them doesn’t get thumbs-up here because the “worms” are more good than bad. They are bad in the sense they’ll eat some of your dill and parsley—and maybe some of the foliage of your carrots and celery too—but they are good because they are caterpillars or larvae of the black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes). Parsley gives both the caterpillar and the adult their nicknames, “parsley worm” and “parsley swallowtail.”

Four larvae on one dill flowerhead

I found our first caterpillars on Tuesday—15 of them on our dill plants. When you find one, don’t bring out the heavy artillery. Share a little of your veggie leaves with the caterpillars. Share a minute with a “worm” as it munches on the foliage. By sharing your dill or parsley, you’re helping complete the life cycle of the beautiful black swallowtail.

And as the summer wears on, let some of your dill go to seed, so you’ll have volunteer plants next year to add both herbal essence and food for the black swallowtail caterpillars to your 2012 garden.

Take a second look at the “worm.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?

If you kill a “worm,”
you won’t have one of these

5 Comments on “Beautiful “worms” on our dill

  1. Thanks for the post, Bob. I hope it saves a few caterpillars. I have some spicebush swallowtail cats living on some spicebush in my backyard and they are facinating. I'm new to the butterfly id game, but I think the adult you have in your picture may be the black form of the female tiger swallowtail. Not as many spots on the wing as the black swallowtail.

    Hard to tell them apart – doesn't help that half the time they are evolved to mimic each other.
    The cat definitely looks like black swallowtail.


  2. Mike: I lay no claim to being able to ID most of the butterflies. The guide I use mentions a dark phase but doesn't show examples or explain differences. Thanks for the correction. Two thumbs up! Bob ###


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