Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Suspense…

The suspense began about a week, ten days ago when—in thrilled shock—we saw a Black Swallowtail butterfly fluttering energetically, erratically in our back yard and, sure enough, briefly pausing at every one of our dill plants. The lovely creature lingered, always moving, at least fifteen minutes and made several rounds of the whole domain, now disappearing behind the garage, now reappearing over the wooden fence. At Brigitte’s suggestion three days I ago I went and inspected our dill plants. On one of these I discovered three tiny black forms. There was just a hint of color in the center of at least one of them. Yesterday morning they all had the marking and had grown visibly in length. By afternoon we could discern them moving under a magnifying glass. Last evening Michelle, impatient at my hapless fumbling with the camera (and my fuzzy results) took it out of my hand and produced the first image in 2011 of Artisto’s Return. If the suspense is too much for you, look here

We noticed one caterpillar last year on the 27th of July, by then already quite big. This year we’ve counted nine separate tiny caterpillars at the stage shown in the photograph. Michelle took a very tight close-up. The little creature is barely visible to the naked eye. Today, almost by way of confirmation that, indeed, Black Swallowtail butterflies are in migration, we saw another one this morning. It visited—and fed on—the same plants where the tiny caterpillars are, communed with us for fifteen minutes, and then headed on north.


  1. Always one of the delights of growing dill. When I lived in New Mexico as a child, we had dill plants in the backyard, and would get bright orange Monarch butterflies.

  2. Perfect timing! Days after the arrival of our grandchildren from Paris, France, AristoII, has filled our dill plants with an entire "litter" of Blacktail caterpillars. Last year we did not see the growing of "Aristo, the first" from the original caterpillar; we only noticed the caterpillar when he was a fat, green and sassy worm on the dill plant. But the metamorphosis was a delight to share with the grandchildren. This year we may be able to observe the entire mysterious process of "becoming a butterfly", perhaps even several.


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