Watch My Food Grow ~ A South Florida Raised Vegetable Garden

Florida Backyard Raised Vegetable Garden

Mysterious Caterpillar

May 18th, 2013 by Lila Steinhoff

What Kind of Caterpillar?

This morning, my neighbor and gardening partner, Jacqie, was inspecting the garden. He came across a caterpillar I had never seen before. It was chewing through our patch of parsley.

IMG_0921Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

IMG_0927-cBlack Swallowtail Caterpillar

 It was about an inch and a half long and beautiful to look at, and we thought it was  Monarch caterpillar.

Caterpillars Can Flat Out Eat!

This evening, I went out to see if the caterpillar was still there. Not only was it still there, it invited company for supper.

Black Swallowtail CaterpillarBlack Swallowtail Caterpillars

They had chewed several bunches of parsley down to the stems.

parsley stemsParsley Stems

It’s a Black Swallowtail

By the end of the day, we had been corrected on the type of caterpillar. A friend who works at the Palm Beach Zoo let us know that the caterpillar in our parsley patch is a Black Swallowtail caterpillar. Not only does this type of caterpillar like parsley, but a few of our other plants are on his list of favorites… carrots, dill and fennel.

Monarch Caterpillar

After finding out the actual type of caterpillar we had, I looked up a picture of a Monarch caterpillar. I understand the confusion on the type, now.

monarch caterpillarMonarch Caterpillar

The colors are nearly the same, but the design of the stripes is different. In addition, Monarchs eat only milkweed.

After looking at both, I think the Black Swallowtail is the prettier of the two. Of course, nothing can match the tomato hornworm for color… or for size. I found one last year that was four inches long and as big around as my finger.

I’ve decided that these Black Swallowtail caterpillars can have all the parsley they want. I just don’t want to see anything in the worm category on my tomatoes.



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4 responses so far ↓

  • So you have BUGS in your garden and don’t KILL them…tell me more…

  • […] Last spring, I wrote about finding my parsley patch stripped down to the stems overnight by a bunch of colorful caterpillars. […]

  • I found six in my herb garden tonight so tomorrow I’m going to buy more Parsley plants to make sure they have enough to eat!

    • Cathy,

      I hope you clicked and went to the second story in the comments. The following year, I saw the Black Swallowtail butterfly. It was so worth sharing my herbs.

      My parsley patch is 18 inches square… the same with the fennel. It was more than enough for the caterpillars. By the time the herbs were gone, the caterpillars had moved to another plant to make the chrysalis.

      One benefit of letting them eat the herbs down to the stems is that the stems can be cut down to the ground. Mine gets really scraggly if I don’t cut it back once in a while. Fresh new parsley is up and ready to use in about three weeks.