How to Attract Caterpillars

I know your first question is, “Why would I want to attract caterpillars?”

Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher, or maybe it’s because I’m a mom, or maybe it’s just because I enjoy the beauties of nature, but I love caterpillars. It’s so much fun seeing them grow from teeny tiny to a few inches long in just a few days, then see them form a chrysalis, and then wait excitedly for them to emerge as butterflies.

Whatever it is, our whole family enjoys caterpillars.

After several years of gardening, I’ve learned that (at least here in the Midwest), how to attract caterpillars. Black swallowtail caterpillars love dill.  You can buy a dill plant anywhere that sells plants, with the herbs.  After the first year, it will reseed itself.  I’ve never had to plant dill again; it just springs up year after year.  I generally just let it pop up wherever, although I do pull some of it up (side note: you can dry the “flowers” on the dill and save the little seed heads when they dry to use as dill seed in seasoning pickles and other things).

Each year in mid-June, I begin finding these on my dill:

black swallowtail butterfly caterpillarA couple of weeks ago, I found six.  A week later, I only could locate two (the birds apparently love caterpillars even more than I do), so I moved them into a container so they could continue to develop.

Both our caterpillars are now in their crysalides (I looked it up and that’s the plural of crysalis – see, ya learned something today!) waiting to emerge as butterflies … maybe 2-3 weeks if I remember correctly?

black swallowtail butterfly

In looking online, I found a great site telling more about black swallowtail caterpillars and butterflies here.

Have fun attracting caterpillars this summer!

11 thoughts on “How to Attract Caterpillars

  1. You just brought back memories. One year, the kids and I raised cecrcopia moths. Google it. :o) It was amazing!!

    I’m gonna plant some dill and see if I can get some cool caterpillars, too. Thanks!!

  2. I never knew that! Cool!

    And I have ever seen that kind of caterpillar around here on the east coast. We always see those fuzzy ones.


  3. Awesome!! I’m one who would love to attract caterpillars!! Thanks for the dill tip. Maybe when they won’t burn to death in our heat, I’ll get me some!! I’ll put them way over away from the bird feeder!

  4. I just went to Pollerts and she gave me a caterpillar that will turn into a Monarch Butterfly soon. I am giving it to Jami Franklin for her little boy. EP said you get this kind on milk weed. She has it growing around her house just to attrack the caterpillars. Have you ever done Monarch Butterflies?

  5. It’s not just the midwest. Here in New Jersey, I was looking for a dill plant all over, I tried about 6 nurseries and no one had one. Made me sad because I love fingerling potatoes roasted with olive oil and dill! I finally found one a week or so ago at a Home Depot—just one, very sparse-looking and brown about the edges—did not look healthy AT ALL but I bought it because it didn’t seem like I’d have another, better chance.

    So I popped it into a planter and a couple of days later I noticed tiiiiny caterpillars and a couple of days later I am noticing they’re not so tiny anymore! Thanks to Google I now know that they are indeed black swallowtail caterpillars. I suppose my dill plant’s brownness and wiltiness was because it was being eaten right there at the Home Depot. I won’t be getting any of it for myself, apparently, but maybe some butterflies!

  6. I have a neighbour who has a broccoli plant in his vegtable patch and it is TOTALY infested with caterpillars (my dream place!!)! 😀

  7. I’m not an expert, but I don’t think so. I’ve planted spinach before and never had caterpillars on it. And again this year, the one caterpillar I’ve found was on … dill. Good luck!

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