Parsley Caterpillar

I love to have fresh herbs to pick when cooking. Nothing better than their just-picked flavor and heady fragrance. Since

I love to have fresh herbs to pick when cooking. Nothing better than their just-picked flavor and heady fragrance.

Since my yard is mostly shade, I’ve planted my herbs in pots so I can put them in the most sunny spots. This year I noticed that my parsley was covered, I mean covered, with scads of caterpillars. There were more caterpillars than leaves on my small plant!

Not knowing at the time whether they were friend or foe to my cooking essentials, my husband picked them off and put them on another plant – I think a large shrub nearby.  Here’s what they looked like:

swallowtail caterpillar "parsley" caterpillar | paula bonelli | birdsandbloomsblog.comI thought for sure this was a yellow tiger swallowtail caterpillar because a few weeks later, we had quite a few flitting around our yard.  Upon further research in the insects’ section of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Web site, I found it is indeed a swallowtail caterpillar, but it’s a black swallowtail caterpillar. I haven’t seen ANY black swallowtail butterflies. Weird.

This caterpillar is also called a parsley caterpillar or parsley worm because it eats toxins from host plants in the carrot family – carrots, parsnips, parsley, dill, and even Queene Anne’s lace. According to Texas A&M, it’s a bad-tasting caterpillar so birds and predators won’t eat it. No wonder there were SO many on my parsley.

What cool caterpillars (or butterflies) are hanging out in your yard? Check out these tips for searching your own yard for caterpillars.

Birds and Blooms contributor, Tom Allen, answers questions about caterpillars and butterflies.

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