Caterpillars.

Driving to Tallahassee Taekwondo Academy every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, I pass a quaint little nursery on Centerville Road. I have always been intrigued by the hanging gourds, towering plants, and tempting cottage shop that filled the grounds of Native Nurseries.

There is always a little message written on a large chalkboard stand that sits at the driveway entrance to the nursery. Last week as I passed by, I read ‘FREE BLACK SWALLOWTAIL CATERPILLARS’ – and immediately knew that I wanted some. Raising caterpillars is my new summer hobby.

I wrangled Niko to come with me the next morning, and I was absolutely enchanted by everything that Native Nurseries has to boast in its small sprawl of land. Not only is the place cute enough for a postcard to send to Grandma, but this fantastic locally-owned operation caters specifically to the native flora of Tallahassee. The cheerful woman that helped us was loaded with information, and tips. She flitted around the rows of plants, telling us which would work best in Niko’s vegetable garden, and which plants would attract the most visitors for my butterfly garden.

It would have been too easy to blow my entire paycheck on blueberry bushes and bird seed, but I settled on a healthy-looking milk weed plant and a small fennel plant. According to the Native Nurseries employee, milk weed is ideal for luring in Monarch butterflies because it serves as both a source of nectar for adults, and has plentiful leaves for larvae to munch on. The fennel was bought specifically for the Black Swallowtail caterpillars.

Words can hardly describe how excited I was when my little buddy was scooped up into a small paper bag and given to me. I named him ‘Cappy’ and spent the rest of the night watching him devour strands of fennel. Niko and I bought screen, a large plastic dish, and some thick metal wiring to construct Cappy a nice habitat.

After we put Cappy and some fennel in the newly-built enclosure, I noticed a tiny speck wiggling about on one of the branches. It was a minuscule baby caterpillar, appropriately dubbed ‘Baby Cap.’ Good thing I found him, because Cappy died sometime the next day. We speculated that he was probably ill from when I picked him up at the nursery. I refuse to think that I somehow contributed to his death.

Anyways, Baby Cap is growing like a beanstalk and I cannot wait to watch him begin to pupate. Photos of the little mister shall be posted soon, but until then, here’s a fantastic shot of a Black Swallowtail with his osmeterium pokin’ out:

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Categories: Stories & Odes, Travel & Adventure

Author:Katie Boué

Katie Boué is the voice of TheMorningFresh.com - a travel lifestyle blog focusing on climbing, Airbnb life, and the outdoors.

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