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Dill is not just for pickles

August 6, 2010 - Deb Gau
While reading this week’s issue of the Minneota Mascot, I came across an article about a local woman with a “butterfly nest” in her dill patch. It brought back some good memories for me. One summer when I was a kid, my mom discovered a similar bunch of stripey caterpillars munching the dill in her herb patch. We wanted to know if they would eat the whole garden, so Mom found a caterpillar guidebook.

As it turned out, dill is a favorite food of black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. The adult butterflies are black with a pattern of yellow or yellowish white and blue spots on the edges of their wings. Besides dill, the caterpillars also like to eat parsley, fennel and carrot greens. Luckily for Mom, dill spreads enough that there was always plenty of food for the caterpillars, and we learned to just leave them alone and watch them turn into butterflies. It was a lot of fun to check up on them.

Another pretty butterfly we see a lot of in southwest Minnesota is the eastern swallowtail. It’s about the same size and shape as the black swallowtail butterfly (big, with little pointed “tails” on the bottom of the wings), but it's yellow and black or whitish and black. The guidebook said eastern swallowtail caterpillars live on cottonwood, aspen and a few other kinds of trees, but I’ve never seen any up close.


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