|Black Swallowtail Photo by Tamera Partin|
This time of the year, caterpillars can get to be rather linebacker bulky.
"I went out today and found this cutie feasting on the parsley in my herb garden! My identifying book isn't clear enough for me to it figure out! I appreciate your time and hope you can help me out? Also, if there are any other interesting facts about these butterflies?" emailed my friend Tamera.
Parsley is the key here. Black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars (Papilio polyxenes) just love to munch on carrot plants as well as parsley, Queen Anne's lace, dill and fennel.
As a general rule, most caterpillars are chunky morsels for anything that wants to eat one of them, like chicken McNuggets with lots of legs. Many caterpillars have no defense against being eaten, just ask a yellow-billed cuckoo. But this caterpillar has a fleshy orange "forked gland,” called the osmeterium that's normally hidden, retracted on the top of its head. Yet, when spooked, this swallowtail's osmeterium, which looks like a snake’s tongue or giant bull horns, swells to at first startle a predator and then it releases a foul smelling, odorous compound to repel it.