parsley worm (35474 bytes)

Parsleyworm

By Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension specialist, entomology

The parsleyworm is one of the most striking insects in the garden. These bright-colored caterpillars have a fancy for parsley, dill and the occasional carrot. When disturbed, they project a pair of fleshy, smelly "horns," designed to scare away predators.

Parsleyworms are fairly easy to control, if you want to do that. They are conspicuous and are easily hand-picked. The caterpillars also are susceptible to insecticides, such as Sevin or Bacillus thuringiensis, and are naturally attacked by parasites.

You should, however, consider leaving this insect pest alone -- or even encouraging it. These caterpillars transform into the black swallowtail butterfly, a large, attractive insect that will visit flowers and suck nectar. The possibility of enjoying a few more black swallowtails in the yard often makes it worthwhile to plant a little extra parsley or dill to feed the caterpillars.

Photograph courtesy of Lynne Conroy.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010