Dill Bed Biologists

Merritt planted a dill bed in our garden about three years ago using Seed Savers Exchange Grandma Einck’s Dill seed & we’ve never had to replant since that summer. Dill is an annual herb, but it is very good at self-propagating! The kids have found Black Swallowtail caterpillars on the plants the last two summers–these caterpillars eat almost exclusively from the carrot family of plants. Finding the first Black Swallowtail caterpillar is a source of immense joy for all three of the older kids. Merritt completed his 4H project this year on the importance of pollinators & focused specifically on including pollinators in your garden plantings using dill, so it was quite important to the kids to be successful in their butterfly rearing this past month. The last of our Black Swallowtail butterflies flew away a few days ago & now the kids are patiently waiting for this first adult batch of the summer to lay their eggs so they can raise another brood. From our research it seems three broods per season in the Midwest is a good year for Black Swallowtails.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Coralee, Merritt, & even June all became scientists, but June does still occasionally tell us she also wants to fly planes.  Time will tell all too soon!

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Dill bed.

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Free range dill!

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Black Swallowtail caterpillar–fourth instar (stage).

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Black Swallowtails munching away on dill stalks…& defecating all over my porch!

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June LOVES caterpillars, butterflies, moths, lightning bugs, dragonflies…she says she wants “people to know” she wants to help pollinators more than her brother. Merritt & June are the ultimate competitors for some reason.

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Black Swallowtail in its chrysalis. The chysalis of the Black Swallowtail caterpillar/butterfly is so strangely shaped.

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June doing her “research” . “See mom???”–is her constant refrain.

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A Black Swallowtail emerges!

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Two at once (female on left)! We took six caterpillars from the dill bed (leaving many behind), one died shortly thereafter, five went into the chrysalis stage, & four emerged.

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Male, we think.

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Merritt releasing one…they are much harder to handle than Monarch butterflies. Monarchs are fairly easy to handle, these Black Swallowtails are much more active & agitated–they want out ASAP!

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