Perpetual caterpillar season

I had thought the caterpillar season was over.

papilio polyxenes caterpillar on bronze fennel

As I was weeding the blue slope the other evening, I noticed tons of them on the spindly remains of my bronze fennel.

Papilio polyxenes

This is the caterpillar of the eastern black swallowtail butterfly, Papilio polyxenes. There must have been ten or so, ranging from fat ones like these to tiny ones perhaps three quarters of an inch long, on one plant alone.

caterpillars climbing

With any luck, I will have a second chance to watch a chrysalis.

Chatham County Extension Agent Debbie Roos has noticed the same phenomenon in her nearby pollinator paradise garden. By the way, she has a terrific list of butterfly- and bee-friendly plants at this site.

More swallowtails on the way

I found a swallowtail chrysalis on the bronze fennel they’ve devoured all summer.

swallowtail butterfly chrysalis

About one inch long, the length from the end of my thumb to the knuckle, it is held off the fennel stalk by two thin threads. I keep an eye on it every day.

It’s worth remembering to look carefully as you clean up the garden in late summer and early fall. I’m relieved I didn’t throw this into the compost pile. Instead, it remains at the end of my front walk, where I pass by it several times a day. Dragonflies perch above it, perhaps, like me, anticipating the big show.

blue dragonfly, species unknown