For now we have had several of these Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars munching away on some Dill plants. Their bright green and yellow colors are beautiful. We have grown so attached! The girls and I go out several times a day to check on the little guys. The kids are amazed that you can actually see them eating — the caterpillars go to town on that dill. We have also learned that their chrysalis can range from brown to green to blend in with its surroundings.
I was trying to get some videos and photos to show students how much they grow and how they eat. When I got close to one of the caterpillars, two little orange bubbles bulged out of the top of its head for just a second. My first thought was that it was a way of scaring off predators. Then the caterpillar didn't move at all for a couple hours and I started to worry that I'd scared him to death and that maybe orange bubbles shoot out of their head when they die. (See, we really are quite attached.) So I read up on them and found out that my first guess was right. (whew - thankfuly!) They are glands called osmeterium that they use to scare off predators. In researching butterfly gardens, I found this really great project executed by students at Charlotte Preparatory School. They are helping to preserve Monarch habitats by propagating Milkweed plants and sharing them with their community. Also, did you know that you can register your garden as an official Monarch Waystation? They provide lots of good information about creating Monarch habitats.