Will catepillars eat plants from grocery?
June 28, 2020 1:21 PM   Subscribe

In this Covid time, we started a bit of an herb garden.Our dill plants are super popular with the dozen or so black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. We find this kind of exciting but now feel responsible for their well-being. I think they're going to eat all the dill in short order. I know they also eat parsley and carrots and fennel...but I don't think we can get enough in the ground for them. So....could we maybe transplant them into a terrarium and just feed them parsley and dill from the grocery store? Then let the butterflies go?
posted by Wink Ricketts to Science & Nature (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We’ve done that. Organic and well-washed parsley. We only had 2 to keep alive. They survived and became butterflies which we let go.
posted by gryphonlover at 1:24 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Two summers ago, my neighbor gave us a bunch of parsley flowers from her garden and we put them in a vase on our windowsill. A few days later we noticed some caterpillars on them (maybe 5 or 6) so we did just what you are proposing - we kept them in a bug keeper with parsley and celery from the grocery store. Only two survived to make pupae. One emerged in about 3 weeks, but the other was in its pupa for 6 months! It was pretty exciting when it actually emerged, but I felt bad because by then it was mid March and would not survive outside. We brought it to the kids’ school where it lived its short life in the science classroom.
posted by fancyoats at 1:27 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]

It sounds callous but caterpillars are the main food source for fledgling baby birds. No caterpillars to eat, no healthy birds. If you are in an area with reasonable wildlife presence I would let it be.

If anything, you could probably get some parsley at the store and put it in a vase outside but I would try to frame it as either outcome being good.
posted by lydhre at 3:11 AM on June 29

I don't think that is callous. I'm in the middle of Chicago so our wildlife presence is not huge (though I did have a skunk living under the house for about 6 months last year), but I had thought about the birds as well. What we ended up doing is just putting some new dill from the grocery in the box and they seemed to be moving onto that as well.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 7:02 AM on June 29

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