Monday, August 9, 2010


A Black Swallowtail Caterpillar discovered on one of our dill plants. This variety of butterfly likes carrot-type plants, thus including dill and parsely. For those seeking hard knowledge, this creature's Latin name is Papilio polyxenes.

Brigitte named him Aristo, based entirely on his heraldic appearance, transferred him to a pot, placed him under glass, and anticipated a genuine biological experience watching a real metamorphosis unfold. Aristo ate like champion; Brigitte fed him parsely and dill. He preferred dill but consumed the parsely too. 

After about a week of feeding, the huge catepillar then transformed himself overnight into this much smaller chrysalis. The structure hangs from the stem arched above it by the tiniest (and here invisible) pairs of white tendrils.

Another week passed. Suddenly, sometime between noon and three-thirty in the afternoon, unobserved by human eyes, Aristo escaped from its small green hull and unfolded its glorious plumage as shown here. Note the two eyes, Here's Looking at You, that no doubt make birds hesitate before disturbing this magnificence. The photograph is through the plastic container that then still held Aristo.

Here is another view. In this one the top portion of his hull is visible at the top.

We transported Aristo fifty miles to the Magee Domain on the Shores of Lake Wolverine. Here is Aristo less than a minute after his release into the wilds resting on a Black Eyed Susan.

By the way, we called him "he" without good rhyme or reason. It might have been a Lady. Aristo became a caterpillar in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. As a chrysalis he travelled to Stratford, Ontario. We dared not leave him alone. Back home again, he turned butterfly—but then travelled another goodly distance before at last he was, as we say around here, "born free."


  1. A well-travelled butterfly!

    I remember growing up in New Mexico that we'd get caterpillars in the garden because of the dill plants; and some of those would grow into majestic black and orange Monarchs.

  2. Our dill "plantation" is two years old this year, and already we have been found. In this process we've discovered what Monarch caterpillar's look like too (on the web -- and they are whitish but very similar in appearance) hence we are ready to see more wonders next season. Meanwhile our grandchildren are experiencing what you did in New Mexico...

  3. It's a nice thing. One of the things that has almost fallen out of growing up these days is natural history -- recognizing birds and trees and constellations and getting some acquaintance with the way nature actually works. It's the foundation for a lifelong interest in scientific discovery, besides being an area where science meets all other aspects of human life (art and poetry and religion), but it often seems like our scientific age just no longer allows itself time for such basics.


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