What are these caterpillars thinking?!

I’ve been holding off on this post because there was the real possibility that I would murder these five innocent yet obstinate swallowtail caterpillars. Their collective attitude makes monarchs seem simple and angelic. As of this writing, (November 26- this will probably publish later) everyone is in chrysalis and seem safe.

Everything I read about swallowtails indicated that they would form their chrysalis and overwinter. I was in the habit of getting out of my car and taking a caterpillar head count before even going in the house after work every day. However as we edged into the end of October and actual ice in our rain on Halloween night, these guys showed no sign of decamping the fennel plant for their winter homes. October20198

I fully panicked  on November 2, when I came home to find two of them heading inside dead leaves in the grass. Two more were still hunkered down at the base of the fennel where they had been days before; and for the love of Pete, IT WAS COLD!

I found a shallow styrofoam tray in the recycling, dug up a clump of curled parsley, and some un-frosted dill. Yes, we had had at least one frost by this time. What are these caterpillars doing?!

I bundled everybody up with the plants in the pop-up environment and relocated them to my unheated garage. I was afraid that the heat in the house would further mess with their tiny crawly instincts. Additionally, I could not find an article that would clearly tell me how to proceed. Heated house? Cold garage? Stop messing with shit? Who knew.

At any rate, everybody ramped up their activity level within an hour of being in the garage. I really thought one in the leaf was dead.


November 2

However this arrangement lead to idiotic situations where I “needed to take my caterpillars for a walk.” I couldn’t just leave them in a dark, windowless garage all day! Plus the live plants needed the light as well. I would set them out in the sun and hope for the best before going to work every morning. There was one day where it turned extremely cold and rainy before I got home, and I found two of them curled up on the floor of the tent as if they had fallen.


Miles gets it.

However the longer this went on, the more I worried about their time frame. I now theorize that reason that elementary classes use monarchs to raise and watch in the classroom is that monarchs follow a predictable timetable whereas apparently swallowtails do whatever the fuck they want. I’m not the boss of them!

Finally, I decided that maybe this was more about time than temperature. Everyone’s activity had slowed. One little guy had been in the same spot under the egg carton for days. Another had assumed what I considered the pre-pupal J position, but was not moving forward. I could see the anchoring silks near all of their heads and bums. Around November 10, I decided to bring them into the house to see if warmer environment helped to speed things along. Again, I could not find helpful articles that really spelled out what to do so this was just me rolling the dice. (Potential murderess  here!)


Success came on November 16 and 17. One by one, I discovered them in chrysalis. The one on the stick was the first to go. However this is where I cut our ties. Some articles suggested keeping the chrysalis in unheated garages and even your refrigerator, but they also said that some swallowtails have stayed in chrysalis for over a year! I cannot maintain this level of stress or caterpillars in my fridge for over a  year. Also between climate change and Ohio’s multiple personality weather patterns, who knows what these guys will decide to do.

The one on a stick is firmly planted in a bush where I can see it. The other four are sheltered in a styrofoam and egg carton “hut” that gives some ventilation and an exit strategy if they decide to emerge on one of our freaky high 50’s “winter” days. Hopefully, predators and weather will let all five survive until late spring. Keep ya’ posted!


November 16- 17

Raindrops on…

Raindrops on roses


and whiskers on kittens,


things in my garden with which I am smitten.


Allium flower

long yellow caterpillars wrapped around dill,


These are some things for which I can’t get my fill! (I’m a big fan of playing with raindrops on plants. This was my first raindrops and caterpillar encounter!)

p.s. My Gma and I used to dance in her living room to the vinyl of The Sound of Music soundtrack.


Garden Babies

A friend has been posting pictures of her garden insect discoveries including her first caterpillars. So last evening I decided to go investigate my milkweed and dill.

I found four babies of two different types, three monarchs and one swallowtail.


Of course, this morning, I could only find the swallowtail again munching on the dill. More babies will be on the way as several of my dill clusters have egg globs on them.


While baby spiders may not inspire the cute factor for me outside of Charlotte’s Web, this little orb weaver  was already glowing with color.


Given the “cat” in caterpillar, this still qualifies as a Caturday post. 😉

Caterpillar Fight to Finish

I’m pretty sure I’ve interrupted an eating contest.

nom nom nom nom

They looked like they were racing.

 My dill has pretty much died out so I was surprised to find these guys a few days ago. I plant the curled parsley because it is supposed to be a Swallowtail favorite, but I’ve never had any diners until now.

Me being way too nosy.

This caterpillar telling me to piss off.


Just Dill

I can't do the glitter justice.

I can’t do the glitter justice.

It rained last night and was still raining a bit when I got up this morning. During the process of walking to the kitchen to feed the cats, I open the curtains and windows so we can all “sniff the good sniffs.” When I opened the blinds to look out on the garden, I was fascinated with my rain bejeweled dill. Everything else in the garden just looked rained on, but the dill had been coated in rhinestones.

In comparison to my other plants, dill seems pretty simple. One big stalk, some fronds easily pulled off for cooking and a rounded head that ultimately goes to seed. Its color palette is fairly monochromatic green until the head develops and adds yellow blooms. Sometimes there’s just too much of it because it re-seeds itself so easily in my yard. I guess that begs the question as to why I save the dried heads for seed every year.

This year some of the stalks are taller than me. I can stand in a dill forest. It really does have its stunning moments.

It looks great in black and white.

It looks great in black and white.

Stunning when boosted plus you can see the rest of the garden upside down in the raindrops.

Stunning when boosted plus you can see the rest of the garden upside down in the raindrops.

Today is also Sookie Day Year 4. We celebrated her adoption day by hissing repeatedly at Olivia Wigglebothum who would not share chasing the jingle mice, and then ate some egg.

Sookie: Year 4

Sookie: Year 4 All the catnip toys.

The First Day

The last exam was graded yesterday. The last yearbook underclassman released from duty and obligations within minutes of the last bell. Check.

Traditional pedagogical Dionysian carousing completed. Check.

Now dawns a new morning, a new era of “freedom”: the first day of summer break.

So early, in theory.

So early, in theory.

(Except that I have about 3-4 weeks of publication editing and submitting ahead for me, a senior editor to help wrap up graduation spreads, materials to gather for a workshop I teach, and I need to sign up for summer classes. Other than that…sweet, sweet freedom.)

I awoke at what I was sure had to be well past 10 a.m. Dionysus does not recommend getting up before at least that time. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my body clock had let me “sleep in” until 7:30 a.m. A time when the morning sunlight is still cool, and most of the neighbors seem to still be asleep.

One of the good bugs.

One of the good bugs.

The cats and I opened the kitchen curtains and surprised two large rabbits who were also enjoying the quiet morning. Opening another curtain revealed a baby Praying Mantis clinging to the window screen outside. I’ll take

They don't take dill and basil in their eggs.

They don’t take dill and basil in their eggs.

both of these nature sightings as good omens.

A quick walk out to the dewy garden for dill and basil to complete my breakfast eggs also reminded me that I’m supposed to harvest lettuce early in the day. Lunch is planned.