What to do? Not Enough Dill

(Zone 5a)

I planted dill last year for us and Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. It didn't flower in time for my pickles and never saw a butterfly. We just hoped it would go to seed for this year and it did. But the female Swallowtail didn't come until the dill was flowering. Much of it is brown now. There does not look to be enough for the four caterpillars I found on one plant, plus two unknown caterpillars on another plant. Their markings are different than the Swallowtail.

What can I feed them if this runs out? I'd like to keep them outside since those are the best caterpillar/ butterfly growing conditions, but if food runs out, I do not want them to starve.

Thank you for any and all suggestions.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Here they go to the bronze fennel and native Zizia.

Although I did find the swallowtails that grew up on a certain plant like to stay with that plant.
I find bronze fennel invasive and it is considered so in my area.
The cats do not like to switch and I am stuck with the fennel when I find cats on the plant.
They go right for the tenderest growth so I frequently can't dead head.
As a result I have plenty of bronze fennel by the end of the season.
But also black swallowtails and frequently very small early ones.
Now if they could just switch to the Zizia.

This message was edited Jul 21, 2015 11:26 AM

(Zone 5a)

Thanks for that added info. I was about to tell you, as a test, I broke off the pieces of dill with caterpillars on them and also placed some new growth from the Golden Alexanders (zizia) and they are not touching it. So, it seems you are right about preferring their original host.

I brought in one for sure Black Swallowtail, another that might be a younger one, and two or two or three geometer larvae that came along for the ride. I guess I'll take them back out and hope for the best. I planted a few more dill seeds, but I doubt they will do much for these caterpillars.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

Are there any nurseries or even grocery stores near you that might sell organic dill plants? What about organic dill in produce departments that is already cut but still fresh? You might be able to keep it fresh for a while by putting the stems in water.

I found this interesting article that won't help you now, but might be useful in the future. It's about native host plants for Black Swallowtails.


(Zone 5a)

Those are some good suggestions, nuts! I'll look around for organic dill. Our local organic grower has other herbs, but not dill. :(

The Golden Alexanders was a surprise this year, since it was outside of our prairie patch. It was planted in 2013, so in 2014 it was kept mowed down, so hardly anything went to seed. Not sure where it came from, but glad it did. I will scour through the leaves, maybe there are baby Swallowtails that I didn't see.

It is good to finally learn what these butterflies ate natively. But strangely with all the Queen Anne's Lace in the ditches near us, I had not seen a Black Swallowtail in years!

Though, my oldest and I, tried to get most of the flowering QAL cut down yesterday that runs along our property. I was most distraught to find a Wild Parsnip in that, but we didn't have a tool to dig it up.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

Are you anywhere near the "Whole Foods" store in Des Moines? Yes, Whole Foods can sometimes be a little pricey, but they should have organic dill.

(Zone 5a)

I know the store. It's over an hour from here. We used to shop there, but most often go to Trader Joe's and the bigger Hy-Vees have an extensive organics section.

I called the local nursery and he has dill that has not been treated chemically. It's not organic, but at least something to use until the next Des Moines trip.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

I love Trader Joe's and shop there regularly. They have dill, but it's in little packs and since it's not organic, it may or may not have been treated.

The dill at your local nursery would probably be okay if it hasn't been treated.

I called my nearby Whole Foods and the produce guy said they just got in lots of fresh organic dill, but every store is different. Besides, an hour is a long drive to go for dill.

Maybe you'll have luck at the Hy-Vee store.

Hope you find some.

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