Monday, August 5, 2013

The Story of Wormy or How Mother Nature Gave Me a Gift

A few weeks ago while I was walking through the garden, I noticed we had a visitor to the herb bed. Climbing on the stalk of a tall dill plant was a black, green and yellow striped caterpillar. He was about the size of my little finger and he was industriously munching on the pungent plant. He paid me no mind and, reminiscent of the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, reared back the top third of his body to reach a dill bloom just out of his reach. I watched as the green stalk vanished into the chomping maw.

My first thought was, oh no, my dill. My second thought was, wow, what a beautiful little guy.  I called my housemates to come see the caterpillar and we all agreed he was quite handsome.  I took pictures and googled for “Black and yellow striped caterpillars” until I discovered our new friend would one day become a beautiful, black swallowtail butterfly.

I named him Wormy and each day I would check on my new little buddy.   He continued to voraciously enjoy the dill plant and we enjoyed watching him enjoy the dill plant.

One morning I went to check on wormy and he was not on the stalk of the dill plant. I rummaged around the other plants, thinking he might have become bored with dill but I could not find him anywhere.

Someone suggested that perhaps he was annoyed by the paparazzi that wouldn’t stop bothering him, so he had moved to a quieter stalk. That was a possibility, but I had concerns. He was a beauty and I’m sure he would have been considered tasty in some avian circles. I could think of a few furry friends that would have considered him a juicy morsel, as well.

I checked everywhere for the next few days, but there was no Wormy to be found. As summers do, the warm days moved on and as they did we had many other visitors to the garden.

The nuthatches came to continue the argument they had started the previous year. My husband and the broody pair disagreed on the proper location for them to build their nest. The birds were sure the garage ticked off every box of their “must haves in our new home”, list. My husband, acting as the building inspector, would condemn each of their renovation projects. Being a big mammal with opposable thumbs he always won the debate but he would often receive a dressing down from the very bitter male bird.

The bees rushed in to poke around in the blooms.  Many hummingbirds buzzed the new nectar feeder.  Each tiny Napoleon declared it their conquest and was more then willing to duel for its possession.

The rabbits seemed to agree that it was very kind of my husband to plant all of that lovely lettuce for them this year, and in appreciation they trimmed the portulaca blooms to help tidy up the garden. In this struggle of communication with the bunnies, my husband’s opposable thumbs were of no benefit. Final score, rabbits two--human, zero.

We had almost forgotten about Wormy, and then last week my cousin noticed a big black butterfly weaving it’s way around the flowers.

Could it be? Was it Wormy? The butterfly was a gorgeous, black swallowtail. Its body had the telltale black, green and yellow stripes but this amazing creature also had enormous velvety, black wings. They were spread wide and you could see orange dots circled in yellow chasing along their edges.  They glowed like stained glass windows held up to the light.  His swallowtails were long and pointed and elegant.  Our Wormy had transformed, this beauty was a wonder of wings and color and grace.

He visits the garden now but doesn’t seem to be interested in the dill anymore.  He prefers the purple flowers in his new winged state.  We enjoy his visits and often he is joined by other swallowtails, some yellow others like him. We always seem to know when it is our wormy that has paid us a visit. The paparazzi still annoy him and I…, I mean they, haven’t been able to get a good pictures of him yet.  Perhaps by summer's end.

Diana, for the Poplar Grove Muse


  1. A lovely chronicle of the goings-on in your garden! For someone as horticulturally challenged/uninterested as myself, it is a fascinating and unfamiliar drama. MKP

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Not only is your writing beautiful, your photos are stunning. Love Wormy!