by Karen Miller, Master Gardener, Entomology Specialist
Gardening, like life, is full of surprises and I do appreciate when one of those surprises is thrown my way. Last week I decided to replace two dill plants that did not make it in my garden. I visited the garden center, purchased the plants and returned home. It was early afternoon and very hot outside, so I placed the plants on a table, inside my enclosed porch, to plant later. I did not check the plants at the garden center for bugs, disease, or any other problems, I just picked them up, paid for them and headed home. The next morning as I was preparing to plant the dill, I noticed one plant had what looked to be several tiny eggs on its leaves. Curious, I decided to put both plants in a glass terrarium to see what might hatch from the eggs. Each morning I checked the terrarium for changes. The eggs hatched into tiny caterpillars that ate my dill plants. The caterpillars grew bigger, forcing me to feed them fennel from my garden. Eventually the caterpillars spun their cocoon and after several days of observation, each cocoon began opening up revealing the surprise - a beautiful swallowtail butterfly. Bottom line…The pictures show the evolvement from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly. This was such a fun project and happened all because I failed to check my plant purchase at the garden center. I enjoyed watching this phenomenon of nature, but for you gardeners out there who would rather have the dill plant than the worms that eat the dill plant, please check your plants at the garden center before you purchase them. You can even leave the ones with the eggs for me.