HOME > Chowhound > Gardening >


BIG, UGLY CATERPILLARS ate my flat leaf parsley!!

These things are green/black/white and gnawed parsely down to nubs! Parsely is in a pot and up off the ground, so was MAJOR trek for this critter to even get to it. Did a little googling and THINK might be Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar?

Will parsely come back??

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have them all over my parsley, too, and I'm thrilled. They're going to be black swallow tail butterflies! Three of them are out there now, big fat ones, chartreuse and black. I think they're beautiful and vididly colorful.

    Parsley comes back in my experience, but I wouldn't care if it didn't, I'm looking forward to watching the process of cocooning and metamorphosis.

    1. I have them on my parsley and dill at the moment. I stopped trying to fight the fight, especially as the dill was bolting anyway.

      1. I grow parsley in baskets hanging from the gazebo eaves, in pots on the deck, and even indoors on the sill of a south-facing window. Have never seen caterpillars on them, but it would be interesting if they did.

        1. Parsley is a biannual but if it's been chomped to the ground there might not be enough left so it can re-grow. IF it comes back next year, you can use it until the flower stalk forms and then it gets kind of bitter/coarse tasting. Even in zone 5, it has time to re-grow if it's possible.

          1. I found another there today, now 4 Black swallowtails and a spiny elm caterpillar destined to become a mourning cloak butterfly: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=h...

            The critters dened the stalk they were on yesterday, have moved to the next one.

            1. I also had this happen and my parsley like all my herbs are in pots and up on a second floor level porch. Kind of startling that they just COVERED the parsley and had no apparent interest in any other plant. And yes, my parsley did come back. Did yours?

              1 Reply
              1. re: ratgirlagogo

                Parsley plants, and all plants belonging to the parsley family are host plants for black swallowtail butterflies. The butterflies depend on these plants for laying their eggs, which then hatch and eat the host plant. The butterflies seek out these plants for laying their eggs, the caterpillars don't go looking for them unless they have eaten their current plant. Every good butterfly garden should have extra parsley, dill, etc. planted just for these insects :)

              2. eat 'em right back. (what? what??)

                1. Yeah, striped ones. I hate them. But I hate all caterpillars, and therefore i hate bu tterflies. They're nothing but caterpillars with pretty wings. I've had them and they will decimate my parsley one day while i"m at work. Bastards.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: EWSflash

                    EWSflash, the butterflies are also pollinating your vegetable plants for you. Without pollinators, you'd have no vegetables.

                  2. Just sw this. Was wondering why they suddenly descended on my dill plants and ate them to the ground. I now regret offing the little buggers. Will plant some on the ground (cuz butterflies ARE cool) and some off in a hard to get to pot (cuz dill is cool).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Westy

                      Westy, there's not really a pot that a butterfly can't get to.
                      After butterfly season is over, your dill and parsley may have time to grow out again before winter.
                      If you grow some fennel at the other side of the yard, you can transfer the swallowtail caterpillars to the fennel, and they'll be quite happy. Fennel is also a host plant for Eastern Swallowtail.

                      We have a little clear plastic butterfly box, about the size of a shoebox, that we put some of the late summer caterpillars in. We feed them fennel, dill or parsley until they pupate, then leave the pupae alone in the box till the butterflies emerge the next spring. There are plenty of articles online about this if you care to try it yourself.

                    2. If you pet 'em on he head they'll send off a stink. I love them.