One afternoon a few weeks back when our dill was tall and seed bearing, my husband noticed that the plants had some new tenants.
We had two Eastern Swallowtail caterpillars happily munching down on the plants. We had already taken our seeds for next year and they weren’t going after our vegetables so we let them be. Besides who doesn’t like butterflies hanging around? We planned to keep on eye on them and hopefully get to watch their different stages of development.
Fast forward to the next morning…We were sitting in the kitchen, eating breakfast, drinking our caffeinated beverage when something caught Honey’s eye. It was a cardinal-and he too was watching the dill plants with a great deal of interest. Before my husband could get the sentence out of mouth, the cardinal pulled one of the caterpillars off the dill and chomped it up. Being no stranger to walking out into the backyard in my pajamas and shooing away various unpleasing creatures (usually squirrels stealing from the bird feeder and one time a snake) I leapt up and ran to the dill plant to see if the other caterpillar had survived. He/she had.
Standing there for protection I could see the cardinal was still standing by, waiting for his second breakfast. This would be a good time to mention our’s and practically the whole neighborhood’s bird feeders were full. I was depriving him of a filet-type meal, but there were enough worms and seeds to keep this cardinal’s belly full. I realized I couldn’t stand there forever and so my husband suggested we bring him in. We cut part of the parent plant (and a few more blooms) and set the caterpillar up on my office bookcase.
I sent this picture to my sister Firefly, because our Dad raises butterflies and I thought she might get a kick out it. She thought it was cool and asked me what had I named him. To be honest it had never occurred to me to give this little guy/gal a name. I had no idea what I was doing and I figured it probably wouldn’t make it to the pupa stage. I thought about it for a minute and decided to call it Dylan, it was a caterpillar of the dill and I had no idea what its gender was.
A few days went by and it ate everything it could and pooped constantly! We had finally run out of fresh dill plants when Dylan decided to start exploring the rest of my bookcase. I was worried he was looking for food and I put what small remittence of the dill plant I could find in the ball jar Dylan had been perched on. That did not entice Dylan back, instead Dylan found a candlestick and slowly crawled up it. At first I was scared that we had starved it to death, but then I noticed over a few hours that it was beginning to contract and not in a morbid kind of way.
The next morning we saw that the pupa had began to form and one Home Depot trip later, Dylan was in complete pupa form.
In case your wondering that thing beneath the pupa is Dylan’s former head. I looked it up and people said that was normal. For ten days after obsessively checking on it a couple times each day (I didn’t want it to get trapped in the house), I discovered one morning that Dylan the Butterfly had woken up.
I had reached Dylan before he/she could fly, but Dylan could move around very quickly. So I grabbed an empty trash can and put the entire candle stick in it. Then I covered it with a piece of paper, telling him with each step that I took to get to the backyard to “stay put”. I had visions of Dylan making a break for it and Bailey and Hitch finding a brand new toy.
When I made it outside and took off the paper, Dylan hoped right out and onto the cement of our patio. I figured Dylan was still tired and needed to pump up his wings before he could go start his month of fun. So I put out my finger and for some reason Dylan latched on. I put him on a flower that was next to the plant where he was born and took a few pictures before he flew away.
It took longer than I expected for Dylan to leave the flower so I got a few chances to check on him. Each time I worried I had put him in the wrong spot; it was too windy, the flower wouldn’t give him enough nourishment, he was in a spot where a bird would come along and eat him. But I realized I had to let Dylan figure this out, it was out my hands now. It had been three hours from when I put him on the flower, but this time when I checked on him, he was gone. I was a little disappointed not to see him but hoped he was off having some fun.