Enter … Papilio polyxenes

Weeding my herb bed this morning, I turned a corner to weed my beautiful bulb fennel plants and the lacy fronds of the one closest to me were gone! Only a stalk remained covered with a dozen or so beautiful yellow and black striped caterpillars. I knew immediately that I was looking at a “flock” of Eastern Black Swallowtails-to be. The other two plants were also in the process of being decimated by these beauties. But I don’t begrudge any butterfly its dinner, since they grace my garden once they complete their metamorphosis. Their scientific name derives from the Latin “Papilio” for butterfly and “polyxenes” after the Greek mythological character Polyxena, the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy.

I am reminded of a book I used to read to my young son called “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. It described the process in terms a 4 year could understand with charming illustrations. Basically, my very fat caterpillars will stuff themselves with my wonderful herbs until they are ready to begin the magical process of spinning their cocoons and metamorphosing into their new form and take flight. I hope it is soon … while I still have some herbs left! Once they do begin their transition, it will be about 10-14 days before emergence from their chrysalis. Can’t wait!

Courtesy D. Gordon E. Robertson

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