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Thursday, September 4, 2008

This Post is Rated BG,




Bugs Galore!

I knew they were back before I saw them. The most delicious fragrance wafted toward me; it was anise scented fennel. That meant only one thing.

The Boys Are Back!

We have been waiting for the boys of late summer to show up for weeks. The boys of course, are the Black Swallowtail caterpillars that have been chomping on the fennel at Clay and Limestone for many generations!

We saw the first caterpillar on the parsley a few weeks ago; but he has since departed to pupate some place safe in the garden. Now, the Swallowtail Caterpillars have shown in full force on the Fennel.


Black Swallowtail Female Butterflies lay pale colored eggs on the tops and bottoms of their host plants and within 3 to 6 days the eggs hatch. The instar stage looks like a small black caterpillar with a white saddle, he is very tiny. This is a shot of a second instar. They grow and morph into the final caterpillar within 6 to 8 weeks.

Isn't the contrast between a second instar and a fourth instar caterpillar astonishing!

A closer view of the the tiny guy on fennel.


Their mouth parts are constantly moving and consuming every part of the fennel, except the stalks. They are totally hungry, hungry caterpillars. The licorice fragrance is delightful.

It means that summer is nearing an end and the Swallowtail caterpillars are preparing for their winter wait and metamorphosis to a Black Swallowtail Butterfly next spring.

While observing the boys, I noticed this one particular caterpillar with a voracious appetite! The speed has not been altered!




I am very glad you stopped by,

Gail

The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity. ~Attributed to George Carlin

73 comments:

  1. That's a hungry little caterpillar!
    Great post, and I really love that first photo. The caterpillar doesn't quite look real, his lines are so crisp.

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  2. Wow, great caterpillar video. You can actually hear him chomping away.

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  3. Nice pictures! It's great to have such life in the garden. It looks like you'll have some butterflies in your future!

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  4. Cindy,

    Thanks, their coloration is so vibrant! Sometimes we get lucky with photos!

    Gail

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  5. pgl,

    The hungry, hungry caterpillar! The fennel is denuded! Maybe I will be lucky and see the chrysalis!

    Gail

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  6. As I was reading this, Gail, I was thinking how much my interests have changed thanks to blogging. Six months ago you wouldn't have caught me looking at caterpillar pictures! Now I'm fascinated by your photos and great video. Thanks for the lesson on caterpillar stages; I can't wait to see all the beautiful butterflies you're going to have in your garden next spring!

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  7. Dave,

    Thank you, these boys are my favorites of late summer!

    Gail

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  8. I like these. I kept one in a jar this summer and let it pupate and hatch. It was so thrilling. When I post it I will link to this post because you have given very comprehensive info on the 'boys'. Nature is so amazing and you do great capturing it.

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  9. Ah, so that's what they're called! These guys took all my curly parsely a couple of weeks ago. We notice that the caterpillars themselves had a distinct non-parsely-like odor too.

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  10. Hi Gail, you will have a good crop of butterflies! I enjoyed those photos.
    Marnie

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  11. Hi Gail, your photos are of such high resolution, just beautiful. The caterpillars themselves are a work of art, as much so as the butterflies, even the little instar guy. I see the same ones on my fennel but have never seen the pupae stage. Do they not form that on the same plant? I do love the fennel plant, even if it didn't attract these hungry fellars!

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  12. A hungry caterpillar indeed!
    Great video and pics!

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  13. Gail, continuing to enjoy your journal sharing and images.
    I am making a start in my new small cottage garden "smack in the middle of the city". Need to check for the caterpillar's. I know I have many butterflys.
    Sure different from my country home. Planning on Spring sale at Cheekwood next year. Wonder if I will recognize you?

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  14. Gail I love the quote from G. Carlin .. hubby and I loved that guy .. hippy dippy weatherman was our favorite : )
    I have fennel and dill and parsley all over the garden .. and I know you kow what happened to my little guy .. why he left home I will never know. But it was great seeing the crowd you have over there girl ! LOL
    We need some rain too !

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  15. I'm glad I stopped by! This was a very interesting post, with the video and everything. I must confess I find those caterpillars very decorative!

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  16. This was just grand. Bravo Gail. I am going to pass this along to some teachers I know. They will love it.

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  17. Okay, I'm adding fennel to my list! The caterpillars are such fun to see and hopefully will morph into beautiful butterflies. I loved the video and could almost hear him eating-no cars this time? :) I hope the butterfly book has the different stages of them and we can tell which caterpillars will be what butterflies.

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  18. Rose,

    You couldn't have said a truer thing! Who thought we would excitedly show up to see bugs, caterpillars and
    spiders! They are completely captivating! The butterflies will be out and about next spring and I will be here/there with my camera waiting!

    gail

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  19. Tina,

    Nature is indeed amazing...I wish I could find a chrysalis or two...then I could make sure they are safe and watch them all winter! They probably are safe! A link would be a lovely gift!

    gail

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  20. jgh,

    I hope you weren't too disappointed to lose your parsley! If you have the space you could plant some just for them! The fennel is for them, I like the odor of licorice wafting on the breeze. oh by the way, welcome to Clay and Limestone!

    Gail

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  21. Marnie,

    Thank you I'm glad you did! They cooperated nicely and I think Mr Voracious appetite was at his caterpillar best.

    gail

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  22. Frances,

    I shot the photos on both macro and automatic. Just some cutting is all that I did. But thank you! I wish the smaller flowers like Salvia would have the clarity of the caterpillars!

    I have never seen a chrysalis of the swallowtail. I don't know where they disappear to but one moment they are all on the fennel, then they are gone! Maybe they are hanging on nearby plants..I'll look this fall to make sure I don't remove them in clean-up!

    Gail

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  23. skeeter,

    How are all your butterfly and caterpillars!

    gail

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  24. Ernestine,

    Let's be sure and try to run into each other while we are there!! I am usually waiting eagerly to get in the tent! It will be fun, I will try to talk the other TN bloggers into stopping by the sale!

    Thank you for stopping by and keeping up with me. I bookmarked your and will add it to the TN bloggers roll cll.

    Gail

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  25. joy,

    I turned around today and they were all gone! Where they are hanging out is a puzzle!

    It's a pleasure when you stop by for a chat...Canada is too far away!

    Gail

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  26. Katarina,

    Hello. They are quite good looking caterpillars. No fuzziness and thorny looks and they haven't horns. Maybe the best looking ones in the garden...I am serious!

    gail

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  27. Anna,

    That would be grand if a teacher wanted to use the post! You are always kind and maybe my best supporter. I really appreciate that!

    gail

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  28. Beckie,

    Have you ordered your book yet? Surely it will id the caterpillar, but, again we can look them up online! I am thinking about ordering an insect id book. My son gave me one for Christmas last year but borrowed it for field work. There are grand online sites but I want a book I can hold in my hand and id a bug!

    The cars are next to impossible to avoid but I was further from the street! It is getting busier each day, I hope we aren't forced to move.

    Gail

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  29. Love that you call them the "boys of late summer," ~ too cute. I guess that's what they are tho. Very cute boys at that too. You have some really good photos for all of us (that don't get them in our gardens) to enjoy. If you figure out where they disappear to, let us know!

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  30. kathleen,

    They move very fast! Shuffled off to metamorph!. They can't have gotten too far away. I just google to find out if you can tell the sex of a caterpillar. You can't tell if they are male or female just by looking. I refer to them as male, it goes with the story!

    No swallowtail caterpillars! Please enjoy these.

    Gail

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  31. What great pictures and a neat little video. You are right, that little guy was hungry.

    Recently I just had the opportunity to see my butterflies leave their cocoons. I originally found them on my parsley munching away. I found 4 of the cocoons and monitored them often. I felt very lucky to see them before they flew off to explore.

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  32. Great post, Gail!! You take wonderful photographs. Metamorphosis is such a miraculous transformation. It's wonderful to be able to spot the caterpillars, for you know it won't be long before the butterflies arrive! :-)

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  33. Great story & pics. I don't have any in my garden. I think I need to plant more fennel. Parsley too.
    Yes, that little guy sure is hungry.

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  34. susie,

    Marvelous! How close did you find the chrysalis to the parsley? I am going to have to go on a hunt to see if I can find them someplace!

    Gail

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  35. shady,

    Thank you, a decent camera has helped! The swallowtails spend all winter in their chrysalis! Isn't that amazing, that's why I want to be extra careful not to destroy them when I clean up for the fall.

    But there are still lots of skippers and other butterflies to enjoy!
    gail

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  36. lola,

    Hello. They sure love the fennel and it smells lovely when they chomp it! The videos have certainly added some fun to blog posts!

    gail

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  37. Hi Gail,
    See ... not everything lurking in the garden is nefarious! Looks like you have an abundance of the swallowtails, so definitely seek out their chrysalises this fall.

    Now I want to try fennel again to see if we can attract them ... we've tried a couple of times planting it, but the rabbits ate it to the ground and killed them, so we gave up.

    We're still waiting on the emergence from the Monarch Chrysalis up here, but still think it should be soon. I posted an update tonight, as well as a 'Caracas' shot I think you'll like! :-)

    IVG

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  38. Hi Gail,

    It's such a relief to read a post from a gardener who's happy to see zillions (well almost) of caterpillars in their garden. Most gardeners would get an apoplexy but not you and you are so right. If we want gorgeous butterflies then we should welcome their caterpillars too and plant lots of fennel.

    Have a lovely weekend!

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  39. IVG,

    Those pesky and rascally rabbits! I don't notice any rabbits around here but then I don't grow the salad bar that a lot of you have...no vegies or lettuces.

    Try the fennel again. I let it reseed and have enough to move about the garden. It is beautiful when fully grown, it lasts a few days before the eggs hatch and then is rather quickly consumed!

    I'll be over this morning! Btw, it's finally raining!

    Gail

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  40. YE,

    We met just such a gardener at a dinner party not too long ago! She was hopping mad that some green creature was eating her parsley. I gently urged her to get more parsley for herself and when the creatures moved in to relocate them to the other plants. She now knows about swallowtail caterpillars and butterflies!

    There might be some caterpillars that we all agree have to go! Which ones would those be where you garden? Tree defoliating ones come to mind.

    Gail

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  41. I sacrificed my K-Mart parsley plant to the swallow tail caterpillars. I love watching the Swallowtails and was happy to let them dine on my parsley plant. They're all gone now and my new parsley seeds are up! I'm really glad I did it. Great post!

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  42. Izyjo,

    Welcome to Clay and LImestone! I hope you don't mind but I have added your blog to the Tennessee blogging roster!

    Yes, the beautiful beasties have to have their own parsley!

    gail

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  43. Great shots of the caterpillar! I found one (my 1st!) on a milkweed & took a photo. I thought it was a Monarch, but I need to compare my photo with yours to see if it was actually a swallowtail.

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  44. mmd,

    Congratulations! Don't you feel like Benjamin (Deep Middle)! They are such special butterflies! There colors are very similar, but the monarch caterpillar has black horns, while the swallowtail has a strange little orange horned gland that only shows up when they are in danger! It secretes a bad taste and odor! Danger Will Robinson!

    I really wanted to hunt for swallowtail chrysalis today but it is finally raining! Yippee!

    Gail

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  45. Great information. I'm planning a butterfly garden for next spring and now I want to make sure I have plants for the caterpillars. So far, they've done fine without my help. There were lots of gorgeous Swallowtails to take pics of this summer. But one can never have too many butterflies! :-)

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  46. I am little jealous, as I have never seen one of these here... we don't have monarchs in our area.
    Great photos!

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  47. Carla,

    Hello and welcome to clay and limestone. You are so right, one can never have too many butterflies or caterpillars! I have planted more Butterfly Weed this past week! I saw a Monarch heading south on our street, do you think he's going home;)

    Gail

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  48. Connie,

    Hello and welcome to Clay and limestone. What butterflies visit your garden? I wonder if you get the Western Swallowtail, you might check to see if you do and what the host plants are...then you can have your own visitors! They really are a lot of fun to watch!

    Gail

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  49. WOW, lots and lots of little caaterpillars. I like the colors of them, so pretty.

    Are you happy for the rain we got today?

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  50. Great photos of the stages of your little garden participants. So exciting to find caterpillars in the garden. They are like a reward for all our hard work I think.

    You are going to have quite the crop of swallowtailsfrom the looks of the number of brightly colored nibblers on your fennel. Will you have butterflies right through the winter like we do down here? I have monarch caterpillars all over my milkweed. They are so fun to watch.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

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  51. Gail, you asked how our butterflies are doing...?...
    Their numbers are starting to dwindle down to just a few now.

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  52. dp,

    Do you have any caterpillars on your parsley or carrots? Do you grow parsley? I'm pretty sure most gardeners really don't want the caterpillars eating their carrot tops, but the fennel is planted for them!

    Gail

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  53. Your catepillars are much pretties than the ones I had this spring were.

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  54. meems,

    Don't I wish we had butterflies all year! No they disappear when we have freezes...and we have our first one sometime in October! Lucky you to have monarchs on the milkweed. There is something regal about them and yet they dine on the common milkweed. Which milkweed do you grow?

    Gail

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  55. skeeter,

    I fear that is the case here, too! But we'll both plant host plants and they will return!

    Gail

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  56. cinj,

    Hey there! Yes they are quite nice looking! There are some really ugly ones covered with spines! What were yours? Where they eating a tree?

    gail

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  57. You know, I still haven't made the time to find out what they were. My summer's just been extremely crazy. They were on a tree, I think it was a poplar.

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  58. cinj,

    Mom with two school age kids= no time to look up caterpillars! Am I right!

    Gail

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  59. Gail, They were all with 3-5 feet of the parsley except for one little fellow that ended up on the side of my house. Unfortunately, he didn't make it because he had no camouflage.

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  60. susie,

    When it stops raining I will look for them!

    Gail

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  61. I do have parsley but have not checked it for crawlies. Have not seen any crawlies on the carrot tops either but they are not near the garden but rather on the other side of the house....

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  62. Super video - made me laugh. looks a bit like my family at dinner time ...

    The photos are super too. The swallowtail caterpillars are just as beautiful as the butterflies.

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  63. sue sift,

    Hi and welcome across the pond! The caterpillars are quite voracious eaters...that is all they do!

    Btw, I read your balcony post, it clearly read "compliment on the impact, Love it, but, I have to do mine differently" it was a beautifully photographed post!

    Gail

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  64. Amazing! What a difference - I never would have suspected the little guy would grow into the huge stripey one.

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  65. Dee/reddirtramblingsSeptember 6, 2008 at 6:12 PM

    Gail, I learn so much from you about bugs, caterpillars and their friends. Thank you for all you write, photograph and video.~~Dee

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  66. amy,

    They eat and eat and grow and grow! I saw a newly hatched instar this morning on the parsley, he was smaller than this capital I.

    Gail

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  67. Dee,

    Thanks...I like these guys and they are fun to write about!

    Gail

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  68. skeeter,

    Look for the tiniest little black line, really small. like a tiny dash sign, that could be a newly hatched instar!

    Gail

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  69. Great pictures of the caterpillars! You must have many swallowtails around. Beautiful.. and the Anise...mmmm MMMM mmmm I can almost smell it.

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  70. cabs,

    We do and the fennel still smells delicious, although, there is little left after the boys of summer dine.

    Gail

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  71. Okay, I'm learning a lot from your blog today! I see these on my parsley and I usually get rid of them but I see now that I should let them be. I guess it is a choice of parsley or butterflies?

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  72. phillip,

    Well, they do appear rather mean looking! I think we all made this mistake until we read about them in a magazine or book. It happens! So now, you can plant a row a parsley for the caterpillars. Plant fennel, too. Plant enough that you can enjoy the really lovely bronze fennel in full ferny beauty!

    gail

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  73. Oh those caterpillers...we have a love/hate relation. Yours are veeery beautiful, nice pictures.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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