A Welcome Return Visitor

I have pots near the back porch steps filled with flowers, herbs, strawberries and cherry tomatoes. This spot gets just the right amount of sun for the plants to thrive, and for Scooter to sunbathe.



Every springtime I plant dill and fennel, which are herbs that I like to use in cooking. But, I only harvest them early in the season. This time of year they are dedicated to welcome visitors. The fennel is host to a half-dozen caterpillars.



Here is one this morning. The evening rainstorm did nothing to dampen its appetite.



Soon it will turn into a chrysalis and then transform into a black swallowtail butterfly.

Other voracious caterpillars are not as welcome. I found 11 tomato hornworms on my one cherry tomato plant. I don’t know how they manage to grow 3-inches long and fat as index fingers without me seeing them. It’s not until the plant is decimated that I spot them. They’ve been plucked and tossed to the chickens. Only the bravest of the hens are willing to tackle such things.


  1. The hornworms are the perfect color green to match the tomato plant , I usually miss them too, until it’s too late !!

  2. This guy is SO pretty! Love finding these treasures around my yard.
    The horn worms are so good at blending in. I had somewhat forgotten about them, so I am glad you posted this…I will check my tomato plants tonight. Thanks for the reminder!
    I don’t know if my girls would try eating the horn worm, but they might surprise me since they go crazy for gigantic crunchy June bugs. eww.

  3. When my kids were small we used to raise black swallowtail and monarch butterflies when we could find the caterpillars. We kept them in a bug barn, fed them fresh host plants daily and provided a stick for them to transform into a chrysalis. Once they became a butterfly we would release them back to nature. It’s been years since I raised butterflies but this year I planted parsley and dill as host plants for the butterflies to lay their eggs on. About two weeks ago I found a black swallowtail munching away on the parsley. It grew and grew and then it was gone but I found a caterpillar hanging from a butternut squash vine. When I lifted the vine to move it out of the path the caterpillar fell off so I picked it up, put it in an empty egg carton and the next day it had become a bright green chrysalis. Hopefully in about two weeks it will become a beautiful butterfly that will flutter about in my gardens. I found two more caterpillars this morning while strolling through the vegetable garden. Terry if you run your finger gently over the caterpillar it will go into defense mode and two little orange horns pop up from its head.

  4. I cannot believe those stupid worms were on my tomato plants so soon as well….they usually do not show up until the latter part of the season. I have gotten one tomato this year off of three plants..last year I had so many I froze them. I do not know why they grose me out so badly…YUCK! But your worm is a handsome guy!

  5. Beautiful photos of the caterpillars. I just found my first tiny hornworm of the season this week. My new flock of chickens is going to come in very handy for disposing of these.

  6. My chickens fight over the tomato worms, but they won’t touch these caterpillars, due to the odor they emit for protection!

  7. Wouldn’t it be nice if one could train the chickens to only peck and eat at what you want them to ;)

    • Well, maybe you could get your clicker out and give it a go! Good to see Scooter again. It’s been a while.

  8. We brought home a caterpillar, and the parsley plant he was chowing down on, home from the farm. A week and a half later we were rewarded with an eastern swallowtail, which was promptly released in our garden- so beautiful. Small wonders are all around us.

  9. As kids, my two brothers and I loved to see the “hummingbird moths” flitting about, usually hanging around our mom’s four o’clock plants. My mom wasn’t so thrilled about them and as I got older I realized why. Those moths came from (or created – which came first, the moth or the tomato hornworm?) those disgusting tomato pests.

  10. Hornworm: what an ugly name for such a beautiful caterpillar. I would be very happy to have hornworms on my tomato plants and swallowtail caterpillars in my fennel. I envy you, Terry!

  11. Donna, I’m with you: I love caterpillars, but tomato hornworms totally gross me out. My daughter tortures me by reciting a control measure suggested by a book we have: “Cut worms in half with scissors or clippers.” Eeeww! I don’t know if my chickens would dare to eat one, but I do know I wouldn’t be able to hang around long enough to find out.
    Beautiful photo of the raindrops on the caterpillar, Terry!

  12. those hornworms? ICK! They are disgusting and scarey. BUT our chickens actually fight over them. I saw 2 hens pulling on opposite ends of the hornworm until it *popped* … each was very happy with her piece. Ick.

  13. Beautiful! Your Scooter is pretty cute too. Our Scooter is a tuxedo cat with a stumpy ear and tail, but he brings us lots of “mousy” presents.

  14. Delightful photos! Just today (Sunday) I discovered 2 large swallowtails in my garden. I will plant fennel & parsley next spring. Do you know that the tomato hornworm morphs into that very sweet calm & gentle hummingbird moth? They will hover right in front of your face for many seconds. Very cool.