Comminatory is the challenge word today for ‘Your Daily Word Prompt.’ I enjoy expanding my vocabulary, and this was a new word for me: comminatory-threatening, punitive, or vengeful. We have certainly had a change to comminatory weather here in southern New Jersey. Frost, frozen bird baths, ice-sheathed grass blades, are what we wake to in the early morning hours. Today I noticed every garden flower that was lingering is now brown and drooping lifelessly.
I knew a freeze was coming, and took a bit of time on Saturday to walk around the yard and take a few photos of the last flowers of Autumn. I noticed the dill was still green and on closer inspection was astonished to see two black swallowtail caterpillars on its foliage. Since I had good luck a year ago raising caterpillars on dill plants on the porch I decided I should try and save these poor critters from the hard freeze. Unfortunately, my ambitions were forgotten until the evening hours. Resolved not to be put off by my forgetfulness, I went out in the dark and found one caterpillar, the other eluded me.
I placed him in a vase and covered the opening with a knee-high stocking. These make great barriers and are easy to slip over the top of a jar or vase. The soft nylon will not harm the insect.
The caterpillar became lively overnight and the next day my grandsons helped me create a habitat for him. We dug up any dill plants still growing, a parsley plant, and added branching sticks for him to form a chrysalis upon. I know from past experience, while eating and growing, the caterpillar will not leave the food source. When he’s ready to form a chrysalis he might wander, but its fairly easy to find him if he is contained in one area.
We decided it was worth a second look in the garden for the second caterpillar, and after a little searching found him motionless in the garden soil. My grandson said he thought he saw him twitch a bit so we carefully brushed him into a small container and took him indoors. Within an hour or two the caterpillar that appeared lifeless began to move and this morning had joined the other on the dill.
Black swallowtails in their chrysalis have no problem overwintering. A small caterpillar, caught in a hard freeze, isn’t likely to survive to form a chrysalis without a food source. Updates will follow on our winter visitors.