Moving Day: Black Swallowtail Butterfly

blackswallowtail082710aA week or so ago I saw the fluttering of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) by my container garden of edibles.  I grow parsley because fresh parsley is key to some culinary dishes and I make a pretty darn good meatball and some decent shrimp scampi, if I do say so myself.

I was out and about late yesterday afternoon to water the edibles since Florida is headed into dry season with a vengeance and there hasn’t been any sign of showers to help grow the veggies.  I turned on the hose and headed over to water the mostly basil-filled garden.  The tomatoes are beginning to come back and I did get to pick a small green pepper recently.  I’m glad summer is over because now I can focus on growing a wider variety of veggies again.

Who is eating my CASH CROPS?
Who is eating my CASH CROPS?

I cursed a little…darn those PARSLEY WORMS!  Okay, okay, I really didn’t curse and I really don’t call these guys worms.  They are the larvae of the beautiful Black Swallowtail Butterfly and I welcome them to my garden, just not my parsley.   Funny how butterfly gardeners call the crawly things larvae or caterpillars, but the farmers call them worms in a sort of derogatory fashion.

Black Swallowtail Butterflies use members of carrot family as their larval hosts.  That include “cash crops” (a.k.a. things I eat) Dill, Parsley, Fennel and Carrot.  That’s when they feel my wrath.  On the other hand, when they eat some lovely natives such as Mock Bishopsweed (Ptilimnium capillaceum) and Water Cowbane (Tiedemannia filiformis) I welcome them with open arms.

I headed back to the pond area to look for some Cowbane.  All the Cowbane around my pond area has gone to seed. I thought I had noticed some down the block along the culvert when I went out to shop the other day but alas, none left at my place to feed young caterpillars.  I headed back to finish up watering the plants and then headed into the house for the evening.

Scads of Cardinals routinely visit the edible garden in the early morning to munch on caterpillars or leaf foot bugs
Scads of Cardinals routinely visit the edible garden in the early morning to munch on caterpillars or leaf foot bugs

Earlier this season I had also seen some cats on the parsley but by the next day they had disappeared.  There are a LOT of cardinals and other songbirds that visit this area and also a couple of resident anoles so I figured maybe they would tend to these munchers of my tasty meatball ingredient.

anoles tend to many critters that are pests to my veggies.
anoles tend to many critters that are pests to my veggies.

Friday is trash pickup day for my area.  You need to have it out early because the workers will occasionally whiz by at 7am and if you don’t have your discards at the road you miss it for another week. I don’t have a lot of trash because I recycle bottles, cans and paper and I compost any biodegradables. I carried my small bag down to the gate, and left it by the edge of the culvert.  Then I took a stroll along the culvert to see if there was any native species in the carrot family.  The culvert has a vast array of roadside wildflowers and I was pleased to see that Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) has made its way down to in front of my house.

Water Cowbane
Water Cowbane

YIPPEE!  Right next to the Pickerelweed was a grouping of Water Cowbane…a new home for those pesky PARSLEY WORMS!  Truth be told had there not been a plant for the transfer the delicable caterpillars would have wound up swimming with the fishes or placed on the platform feeder where birds could find an easy meal.   I believe in the circle of life and don’t “save” any particular species in the food chain…except my parsley, of course 😉

MOVING DAY!
MOVING DAY!

I headed to the backyard, gathered up my caterpillar friends and all five of them were gently transferred to the natives out at the culvert.

Settling in at the new diner
Settling in at the new diner

Now, I just hope that the reason the meatballs are so tasty is because of the parsley and not because I didn’t wash it enough and some secret caterpillar sauce blended in.  😀

Sure hope this wasn't the secret ingredient to my tasty meatballs.
Sure hope this wasn’t the secret ingredient to my tasty meatballs.
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