Black Swallowtail Butterfly Eggs, Larvae and Worms

Finding the Swallowtail butterfly in it’s life stages in my garden

I’ve been watching as the Black Swallowtail butterfly flits around my vegetable garden laying eggs on the parsley and fennel. I took the camera out and got these photos. Everything looked good until the bees showed up!

In the first photo here you can see two eggs and one tiny black caterpillar.  In the second photo see a more mature caterpillar.  All these are currently found in my garden – all the stages.  Right now I don’t think there is a pupa or chrysalis. Earlier this year a green one formed on the lower stalk of the fennel. They seem to prefer fennel over the parsley, although they are also known as parsley worms.

swallowtail butterfly eggs and larvae
Swallowtail butterfly eggs and larvae in fennel leaf

Grow some fennel if you want to encourage the Swallowtail to visit your garden.  The worms will eat down the vegetables, so plant extra to allow them to feed.  Check for eggs and worms before picking herbs!


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Worm on the fennel
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Worm on parsley

The “parsley worm” is so pretty, and fun to watch. They will twist and reach for those strands of fennel. In fact I was watching one the other day, and decided to go inside and get my iPhone. By the time I got back out to the fennel, a wasp was eating the caterpillar! I took the video below as one wasp, or hornet or whatever it was, got kicked off the meal and another took over.
I was tempted to pull off my shoe and kill those bees, but it’s nature, so I controlled myself.

Between the hornets and the birds, it is quite amazing that any caterpillars get the chance to turn into a butterfly.

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Newly hatched black Swallowtail on basil flowers

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The Swallowtail butterfly hovers over my garden

And here she is, back at the garden laying eggs on the fennel and parsley. There you have it, the full cycle of the life of the Swallowtail, found in my backyard.
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For more great photos with life stages of the Swallowtail check out the post on Our Habitat Garden.

Cut Worms, Pill Bugs and Squash Vine Borers Invade My Space

My little garden has been growing like mad, but now the cut worms and other creatures are making a mess of it.

Cut Worms

I’ve seen black worms eating leaves, and they are not picky which plant they attack. These are the cutworms – pictures below. Cutworms can also nip a new seedling at the base and kill the entire plant, but these are concentrating on the leaves.

Cutworm eating fennel
Cutworm eating fennel
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Black spots are tiny worms
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Small worms huddled together
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Tiny cutworms living underneath a cucumber leaf

It turns out getting rid of the cutworm is easier than getting rid of the other pest, the pill bug. I can pick the worms off the plants. The large ones are fairly easy to spot, and my garden is small. I plopped them into my tray bird feeder and the cardinals came and had a meal!

Pill Bugs

My other problem is all the tiny bugs, which I believe are Pill Bugs. They are everywhere from huddled along the wooden sides of the raised bed, to deep down under the soil. And I’ve found them munching on my cucumbers too.

At first I thought these were a form of the cutworm. These bugs range from tiny to fingernail size. I thought they were harmless, but have found them eating the vegetables, so they need to go.

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Along the inside edge of the raised bed

As I was inspecting the garden, I found colonies of the pill bug along the edges of the garden. Too many to pick off. And as I dig, I find more underground!

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Single pill bug

I’m always looking for organic, natural ways to deter destructive bugs because I don’t use harmful sprays in my yard.

I read that the cutworm will eat corn meal and that will kill it. I’m hesitant to use cornmeal because of the raccoons that visit my yard each night.  I don’t want them digging through my garden because they smell corn!

One site suggested using Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. I just happened to have some of that!  It’s made of crushed fossils which cut open bug that crawl across it which causes them to die.  I sprinkled it over the dirt in my garden paying attention to the edges.

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Pill bugs roll into a ball when disturbed
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Bug on the cuke – hard to see, but he’s there a little left of center.

Besides these two destructive pests, I’ve got worms boring into my cucumbers and summer squash. While I was outside dealing with these bugs, an orange wasp (it’s really a moth, but looks like a big bee) was buzzing around my garden. Come to find out it is a squash vine borer moth looking to lay it’s eggs in my garden!  The link has a photo of what those eggs look like.

The link above will give you lots of info about how to prevent the borer moth from laying it’s eggs all over the vegetables.

One idea is to use a Floating row cover.  If the moth can’t get to the crops, it can’t lay the eggs.

Another suggestion which I found to be a simple try is to place a yellow bowl of water in the garden to attract the moth and drown it.

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