Who Gets The Dill

Every springtime I plant dill, but it’s been years since I’ve harvested any. I plant dill in pots near the kitchen door, which are filled with a mixture of edible flowers, like nasturtiums, herbs and some blooms that are there just to look at. The pots are meant to be useful and pretty.

I’d like to snip the dill and use it, but I never do, because right when it’s ready to be harvested, this appears:

It’s a nest of larva, and what lives inside is this:

There are bright red spots on it’s sides.

It’s a voracious eater, and it especially likes dill. Soon it will make a chrysalis, and then transform itself into this:

A Painted Lady butterfly

(I didn’t take this photo, as the caterpillar is still munching away on my carefully planted pots. Photo courtesy of this site.)

This is the first year that I’ve seen Painted Lady caterpillars. Usually the dill is found by the Monarch caterpillars, which are very fond to it (and parsley) and beautiful in all stages. The Painted Lady caterpillar on my flowers hasn’t eaten all of the dill, so perhaps other caterpillars will be along later this month. I hope so. I’ve planted plenty of dill for all of them.


  1. For 20 years or more I have planted parsley with no intent of eating it. I plant it just for the butterfly’s catterpillars. It is more than worth it to have the beautiful butterflies and I do enjoy watching the caterpillars munching away.

  2. That is a beautiful butterfly. Coincidentally, I just bought a bag of mulch over the weekend and while spreading it, my 6 yr old son called for me, excitedly telling me that he found something really neat. It was this very same caterpillar!! I’m assuming it came from the bag….could that be true? She crawled away into my grass. With any luck, we might see painted lady?
    Re: the herbs. I love to plant basil just for the smell!

    • I doubt the caterpillar could survive in the bag, but who knows? I do know that caterpillars are attracted to moist dirt, so maybe it was thirsty?

  3. I plant dill especially for the swallow tail butterfly caterpillars. They love it! In late summer my dill will be covered with them. Never had any painted ladies.

  4. My parsley and dill come back every year (which I love) and I eat them both…I didn’t know about the caterpillars/butterflies though!

  5. Maybe you can put ur dill in a pot with a tomato cage. I use remay(sic) to cover my brassicas to help with catapillars and carrot fly in my carrots. You could sacrifice some uncovered dill to the catapillars and have some for ur self too!

  6. Any other suggestions for multi-purpose plants like that? I am getting ready to put in my butterfly garden and I like the idea of plants that feed both of us. Also, my birdfeeder is next to my garden-to-be. Will the birds (cardinals, titmice, doves) eat the caterpillars?

    • The butterfly caterpillars also like fennel. There are many wonderful flowers that butterflies love, and some of the flowers are edible, like nasturtiums. I’m not an expert, but there are good books on gardens for butterflies – I’ve taken a couple out of my library – and planted a perennial bed for them – but they still go to my herbs first.

  7. I’m not 100% shure, but I think the picture shows the European form of the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), which is a migrant from Africa. As far as I know the American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) is slightly different.

  8. watching your girls on the hencam today while i worry about my own at home. i’m in RI…this heat is unbearable. my four hens are only 7 weeks old so this is their first time in this extreme heat. they did ok yesterday with frozen 2 liter bottles in the run and ice in their waterers. how are your girls doing?

  9. Yes, it’s hot! I have a FAQ about keeping hens safe in hot weather, and I used all of those tricks this week, including hosing the run down and having a fan going in the coop. They have shade, extra water and cool dirt to hunker down in. They were a tad stressed, but fine.