Last week we got fennel as part of our CSA share. I made a yummy shaved fennel salad with a lemon dressing and tossed the ferny tops into my chicken scrap tub. When I went to take the greens out to the chickens I noticed 2 interesting caterpillars munching away. Upon checking the internet (what caterpillars are on my fennel?) I found out that they were Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars. I found this site to be particularly helpful.
I thought it would be a fun project to raise our caterpillars indoors. Besides fennel, they like anything related to carrots, such as parsley and queen anne’s lace. I pulled a parsley plant out of my garden, stuck it in a pot and laid the fennel greens on top of it. I also borrowed a Butterfly Garden enclosure to contain the critters. They really move around when you aren’t looking. I had a funny moment when I was looking at my parsley plants outside and thinking about these beautiful, exotic caterpillars that would *never* live in Brooklyn. Well, there was one sitting right on top of my parsley plant. I decided to leave that one in the great outdoors and concentrate on the 2 I had. After a day, one had doubled in size and the other one died.
The one we have left, which we affectionately refer to as chubby, keeps doubling in size and eating up a storm. I added carrot tops to the enclosure and it seems to be thriving. Here’s a video of the little guy munching away on the parsley. I shot still frames and made a kind of time-lapse video. It only took about a minute for him to eat all those leaves!
I can’t wait to see it transform! My sister raised some Anise Swallowtails in her garden. You can read about them in her blog here.