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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No, That Isn't Poo on the Parsley

Rarely is my camera in hand when the butterflies are noticed. They flit here and there while I'm working in the garden and my part is to enjoy their presence, to watch their flights and their landings, to marvel at their design, to be very happy they've chosen to visit my garden.

It's not uncommon for me to stop what I'm doing and just ooohh and ahhh over them and just admire their graceful ways.

When the grand children are out in the garden with me they get just as excited. If they spot one first it is with glee in their voices they make the announcement, "butterfly." They are learning to identify and treasure them at an early age.

The monarch on the pretty pink zinnia happened to fly-in while I was photographing another plant next to the flower. So for this time it was a simple turn and focus and of course cooperation from the dear butterfly.

The less than stellar photo above is case in point when I had to make a mad dash to the camera and back. Hopeful to capture just one of several Black Swallowtails that were dropping eggs all over the three huge parsley plants that sit at the feet of the tomatoes over in the vegetable garden. That was on June 23.

On June 28 little dark spots that appeared to be so many bird droppings, first seen in my periphery vision, caught my attention. Closer inspection revealed dozens of caterpillars in the first larval stages. They were covering the tops of the plants.

A sight so intriguing I plopped down on the nearby pathway and just watched for a time.
...Young caterpillars in every stage (notice the teeny one in the upper right hand corner) sharing the same plant and resolutely chomping away at every available leafy green stem.

The host plants for Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes asterius, are in the Carrot or Umbellifer Family (Apiaceae). They are especially fond of parsley and seem to prefer the curly parsley over the flat-leaved Italian variety... according to my handy Florida Butterfly Garden Guide.

You didn't think I knew all that stuff off the top of my head now did you? But, hey, I do keep my guide close by for referencing appropriate host and nectar plants. And attempts are being made to learn what is needed to increase our host supply for the pretty little critters.

Further down the row of parsley plants there is plenty more of the very same activity. This one home to another last stage caterpillar.

I've yet to find a chrysallis. But I've heard (and read) that many times the caterpillars crawl to an entirely different site other than the host in order to form the chrysallis.

These eyes are on the look out... surely with all this activity it's likely I'll get to see one.

Soon, we should be making birth announcements wouldn't you think?


  1. How interesting! I really wish the butterflies would show up around here. It's July and we have not seen the first butterfly.--Randy

  2. I love the tiny little instar stages where they are just doesn't take long chomping on the parsley before they are big caterpilars!! I know your grands love spotting them now! I love learning about these critters, it's helped me not over react and check out to see if they are good bugs or bad bugs. I did dispatch a few saw fly caterpillars that were eating hibiscus leaves!

    I have been wondering where all our caterpillars are, too (as Randy has) and remembered that last year...they showed up as soon as the P paniculata bloomed! That means any day now!

    Have a delicious week.


  3. Don't you know you're not supposed to leave the house without your camera? It seems that neat things happen in the garden when we're quietly working. I'm glad you were able to get a shot of the Monarch. Here they practically get drunk on the Coneflowers and it is fairly easy to get a good shot of them.
    How funny those baby caterpillars are. I've never seen a Black Swallowtail butterfly, but we have Yellow Swallowtails visit frequently in the summer.

  4. That is so neat! I'll have to check my parsley too to see if I have any on them. They're so much fun to long as the birds don't pick them off! (:0

  5. Hi Meems~~ I can almost hear them chomping, yum, yum...mouths full. And do we humans really need parsley? I love how we've collectively become more sensitive to the needs of critters. I never see caterpillars but swallowtails are frequent visitors and I agree. It's an honor. Now if only I could grow another arm for quick camera access. :)

  6. What great photos of the instars Meems. You definitely should get the birth announcements ready. tee hee...

  7. Great shot of that male Monarch! I could have have one like that today of a Great Spangled Fritillary if the camera was handy. Most Black Swallowtail cats I've ever had was just under a 100, right now maybe 4-5 saw a female around the fennel a few days ago, so things could change

  8. Randy,
    Not one? Maybe because of the unusually cold winter? I would venture to say you will start seeing them any day now.

    We are thinking alike again... those butterflies come out with warm, sunny has been great learning to appreciate the good bugs and like you said not over reacting.

    I do know it but I get busy and it ends up on the other side of the garden or on the back porch. The Monarchs are fairly easy to capture but those giant swallowtails are not so cooperative when their wings don't stop moving for very long.

    I was thinking the same thing. The birds are frequent visitors of that area of the garden... I hope at least some of them escape their meal time.

    The parsley is starting to bolt this time of year here anyway. I'm so glad they found it before it vanished. Another arm would be very handy now that you mention it. :-)

    Thanks... getting them all printed up!

    Randy Emmitt,
    I have a feeling you will have lots of butterflies around your place soon. Can't wait to see your photos!

  9. My caterpillars are gone as I expected they would be and I can't find the chrysalis anywhere! I am going to have a good look tomorrow if it stops raining. It will be interesting to see just how far they traveled.

  10. Meems - I've never seen a black swallowtail larvae at such a young age - good eyes! I always plant flat leaf parslay for the kitchen but will now be including the curly variety for the swallowtails! This spring mine were chomping on dill and and fennel. When the butterflies are "dropping eggs", can you see the eggs? How big are they? What color?

  11. Oh! What a fun post! Meems, truly now--yore journal (blog) is book worthy. I thinks ya got somethin' a whole lot of gardeners would enjoy as a book.

    One thang I reckon that keeps a heap of folks from seein' such a sight is the use of pesticides. THe queston is always how to keep the good but control the bad bugs?


  12. Just perfect Meems, just perfect. Best post I have seen for ages.....wish I was there to witness it....fab....

  13. your gardening efforts have produced all kinds of life! you not only grow beautiful plants, flowers and veggies, but you give space to the critters as well.

    life is well balanced in a properly kept garden, isn't it? most skeptics (like me) would be running for the pesticide, or squishing and smashing those caterpillars that would 'damage' our plants by eating the leaves. yet you are playing host to the cycle of life that produces those gorgeous creatures everyone loves to observe - the elusive, beautiful butterfly! and such a variety as you entertain must be a spectacular sight when the cycle is completed.

    your pics are amazing in detail, chronicling the many stages of the reproductive period of these creatures. not only is your blog interesting, but educational as well. very nice!!

  14. Sue,
    Did you find them? I've been looking see even just one would be thrilling.

    Mary Beth,
    Fennel is another of their favorites! The eggs are large, round and pale yellow... not laid in clusters but several eggs can be on the same plant.

    Did you know there is a service that will turn your blog into a book? I keep thinking I should look into it... just for the sake of having it as a record of my garden. And yes, it is pesticides that keep folks from this kind of simple pleasure. My aim is to attract so many beneficial bugs that they take care of the unwanted and damaging bugs... Let nature balance itself and if per chance the bad wins out over the good once in a while... well, we just re-group in that case... without pesticides though. :-)

    If you had been... you would have plopped right down with me to witness the feeding fest.

    SG aka Mom,
    Thanks, mom.
    "life is well balanced in a properly kept garden"... I'm learning that when we let the life cycle be is remarkably efficient. It takes some effort and some patience but appreciating the entire eco-system in a garden is thrilling and the results are more than beneficial.

  15. Oh my, I am really enjoying your blog! it is so interesting and fascinating! I haven't seen Monarch yet this year...maybe a little early.

  16. i love the fact that you have so many of those caterpillars growing in your will have the reward of them soon very soon. what a great capture of the monarch on the zinnia. i love it. the grands must be so excited to see all the little stages of those critters, too.
    we had an infestation of bag worms on our cypress tree just off our front was teaming with life but it damaged the tree and we had to remove it. such is the life in the garden.

  17. Wow Meems---those pictures are so good. LOVE that first butterfly picture. AND---I'll bet that your grands loved seeing all of those caterpillars too. WOW!!!!

    Keep the pictures coming. I love seeing them!

    Have a wonderful 4th.

  18. Isn't it funny that we never seem to have the camera when that humming bird or butterfly flits around near by. That's when I remind myself to stop and smell the roses. Take it in and enjoy it while you can. They are so beautiful. Lucky you to have captured it on film as well as your memory. Have a nice fourth of July.

  19. Very cool photos, Meems. We are in the middle of a horrible tent caterpillar infestation. Horrible! They are worse in the sweetgum trees in the backyard and the cypress trees around the pond. There are times when they are falling from the trees like snow. Needless to say, I've been avoiding the backyard lately. I've never seen them so bad...or in July. Yuck!


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