Caterpillars on the Munch

For Summer 2020, Dan and I have continued to hang out at home in the garden, yard and around the pond.  I love the fact that Nature has gone on about her business as usual and in doing so has provided us with wondrous events and sightings.  As a result I have spent more hours out than usual observing and working some in my little herb garden; trimming, staking, drying herbs and watering a lot due to the mix of heat and blast furnace Kansas summer wind.

Swallowtail caterpillar one
Easterner Swallowtail Caterpillar and Dill

Some years back I had Eastern Swallowtail Caterpillars invade the herb garden favoring the fennel and dill.  Now I just plant extra to have some for the kitchen and then let them chow down on what they want. They are voracious eaters and quite feisty at times.  I get such a kick out of gently touching them with a finger only to have them raise their little yellow “horns” called osmeterium, which are actually a defense against predators.  The defense is a scent put out (by these little yellow horns) that I can only describe as weirdly stinky… if I was a bird I would not get near!

Swallowtail skin shed
Caterpillar and skin shed…outgrown his skin already!

The caterpillar stage lasts 3-4 weeks so I hope the dill and fennel hold out! Then comes the chrysalis cycle lasting 10-14 days (at this time of year) with butterflies emerging for a 6-14 day life expectancy.  I am looking forward to seeing the end result of these smelly little muncher’s life cycle with the Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly appearing later this summer.  In the mean time I think I will go wash my hands… life by Green Heron Pond.