If you are growing herbs such as parsley, fennel, carrots, radishes, celery, or dill in your garden then you most likely have encountered what some call parsley worms.
The first instar of the Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) larva on dill.
The difference between Eastern And Western Swallowtails is subtle. Photo by Todd Stout of Raising Butterflies. Photo used with permission.
Although many may regard these “worms” as a nuisance, they should be treated with care as these “worms” are actually the caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) or Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) butterflies. These butterflies not only grace your garden with their beauty, but they are also important pollinators.
The beautiful Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) including some of its larval host plants.
The Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) is a common swallowtail butterfly of western North America. Photo by California Butterfly Lady, Monika Moore. Used with permission.
Sometimes people confuse these caterpillars with Monarch caterpillars. They do resemble each other, but the big difference is Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Black swallowtails eat plants from the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family commonly known as the celery, carrot or parsley family.
These two caterpillars look similar but have different diets. Monarchs will only feed on milkweeds while Black Swallowtail will eat a variety of herbs in the carrot family (Apiaceae).
If you do not want the caterpillars eating your herbs, gather them up and place them in a container with some food. This will protect the vegetables and herbs you want to eat. And once they become butterflies you can release them so they can pollinate your garden.
Releasing a new-born Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterfly brings beauty to the garden and joy to the heart!
So if you want butterflies in your garden don’t kill the caterpillars!
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