Back in the Saddle + Growing Caterpillars

Hey, y’all!  I tidied up the kitchen!  And some messy corners of the living room!  Of course, the living room was messied again almost immediately, but the kitchen is still clean.  And I’m even menu planning this morning, since Henry so sweetly woke me up at 4:25, and there’s no sense going back to bed at that hour, right?  My kids think I’m crazy.  “Four o’clock is not five o’clock,” they say.  And they’re probably right, but I can’t sleep when I think the alarm is going to go off soon.

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The other night, I was making dinner and I needed some parsley.  Due to poor household management for the past three weeks, I’m all out of the dried variety.  Davey reminded me that there was quite a lot in the garden, apparently enjoying the cooler weather, so I cut some and brought it back in.  As I began to chop, Evie exclaimed, “Wait, we’re eating caterpillar food?!”  All summer, we raised black swallowtail butterflies in jars on the table, and where did we find the caterpillars?  On the parsley.  So, yes, we’re eating caterpillar food.

I don’t really rinse my garden produce.  I figure it’s relatively clean already, and if I don’t notice any dirt splatters or small insects, I just run with it.  The first time Davey brought me the parsley, fortunately, he noticed the caterpillar.  It was a pretty substantial specimen, so I probably would have seen it before I chopped it up, but I was grateful for the heads up.  It was a Very Hungry Caterpillar and ate a lot of parsley before we were done with it.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar in a jar with parsley.

Have you ever grown caterpillars that you’ve found at home?  It’s very easy.  Just pop it in a mason jar with a stick it can adhere to later and a good amount of whatever kind of plant you found it on.  It probably eats that plant.  Make sure to cover the jar with a piece of cloth!  You can hold it on with a rubber band or the metal band that came with the jar.  If it’s a very big caterpillar, it’s probably ready to make its chrysalis.  It can take a couple of weeks to hatch; late summer caterpillars might plan to overwinter.  It’s all very exciting for all the people, and we’ve hatched all kinds of interesting butterflies this way.  Someday, I’d like to have one of those butterfly habitats so that we can keep it for a few more days before releasing it back into the wild.  All these kids, all these years of caterpillar raising, and I still haven’t bought one.  Maybe next spring!

Be a wee bit mindful of the caterpillars you catch.  Some of them sting, and it can be extremely painful, depending on the variety.

Have you ever grown a wild-caught caterpillar?

Black Swallowtail butterfly, freshly hatched, stretching its wings before its first flight.



2 Comment

  1. I have this memory from when I was Very Young. When my mother was still at home with us, and I don’t think I was even in school yet. I remember that we found a big fat caterpillar like the one in your picture. I remember that we put it in a jar with a stick and probably its food and covered the top. I remember the brown cocoon/chrysalis hanging in the jar. Oddly enough I do not remember the butterfly or moth that emerged or letting it go, so maybe it was a failed experiment, and the caterpillar didn’t make it to the next stage. But I think it’s incredible that such a memory of that experience has stayed with me all these years. I think it’s proof in my own life of just how much the wonder of nature matters to Very Small People, and even though I wasn’t able to continue my education at home myself, I am forever grateful to my mom for encouraging that wonder then.

    I am ever-hopeful of finding a wild-caught caterpillar for my own children. Perhaps we should plant some parsley this spring?

    1. Just look! We find all kinds all the time. Some will be moths (inch worms, gypsy moths, tomato hornworms/sphinx moths) and some will be butterflies, but they are literally all around you. Just look! (PS: Tomato and tobacco hornworms burrow in soil, so they’ll want some earth instead of a stick!)

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