Friday, August 14, 2009

Caterpillar juice

The evidence. An ex-parsley plant.

The culprit, below, starting on the fennel.

Even though the Poll showed that readers voted, by a narrow margin, to throw the suckers off the terrace edge, clinging to parsley stalks, I have had A Change of Heart.

I feel bad.

So yesterday evening I watered the parsley plant on which a fatter cousin of this Black Swallowtail child was munching. And this evening I photographed this one. I don't know what happened to the plump caterpillar. Its parsley wilted in the hot sun during the day - and perked up as we watched, after was uncanny: seconds later the flat plant was upright - and that caterpillar was gone.

But this evening's caterpillar?

It stuck out its osmeterium and it squirted me.

See on the leaf? Caterpillar squirt. It got a fright when I put the lense too close and juiced on my hand. Dark green. I sniffed it. Awful.

A little while later...just humour me here, my mouth tasted bitter. At first I made no association, but it has persisted all night, through ajo blanco, sauvignon blanc, which tasted horrid, ribs, melon and basil salad and grapes. Bitter.

Is it possible that either the sniffing of the juice or the juice through the skin made me bitter??? Far fetched, I know, but apparently these worms (who love rue, the most bitter of herbs) taste horrid, and right now I think I would taste horrid to a big bird, too.

It is clearly karma. Payback for the brethren tossed over the edge in the barbarism of my yesterweek.

Update: the bitter taste was caused by a reaction to pine nuts, consumed en masse in pesto I made! It lasted two weeks.


  1. Well,if chilli can linger, why not caterpillar juice? Maybe it ate something besides parsley?

  2. I'm so worried I will sleep with my finger on the 911 fast dial. We can't have you lose your sense of taste like De Funès dans L'aile ou la cuisse. And no, I'm not bitter about it. ;-)

  3. Chuckle.... that's the laws of karma, all right!

  4. I'm glad you had a change of heart. Poor things know nothing of gardens, only chomp chomp chomp on the food food food.

    Plus, to be that person who gets that fat caterpillar tossed onto her hair or into the ice coffee held below:)

    But then I wonder, can they make the fall without injury? Maybe. Then climb back up the wall to your herbs!

    Oh, here I am worrying for caterpillars. I'm sorry. Your TASTE buds ruined by caterpillar weapons? Probably more like feeling you're being bitten after you've been bitten once. The nerves get juiced.

  5. Oh, speaking of Herbs, congrats on the photo contest...

  6. I'm sorry i missed your "vote," but i would never throw the caterpillar off the parsley. To favor the nurturing of plants, but yet to destroy any of the critters that are part of this cycle, just doesn'tmake sense to me.

    Why not just plant several parsley plants and try to transfer errant caterpillars (not worms) onto one single parsley plant? If you're afraid of getting squirted, just cut a stem and lay him down at base of other parsley plant.

  7. MIT - maybe it did!

    Beence - if I lose my sense of taste you lose your happy meals :-)

    Rachel, yep...

    Frank,er, yes, I know. I tend to think that they do make the fall intact judging by the unperforated state of the caterpillar I saw marching back up the brownstone wall the morning after. Maybe the stalk with leaf acts as a sort of chute.

    Taste buds still f&*%$d but see pine nut theory.

    And thank YOU for the herbs...I would not have known about the competition but for you.

    Hi Anonymous. I eat the plants, but I eat not the critters. I grow the plants to be eaten. By me. The critters eat the plants I eat. All of them. One caterpillar eats one parsley plant, apparently, over a few days. I don't have that much parsley. May I mail you some, perhaps? Caterpillars, I mean. I have three up for adoption. Thanks for your comments, and please leave a name next time :-)

  8. Judging by the shape of the caterpillars, they'll be getting ready to pupate soon...then they'll stop eating (what's left of) your parsley and fennel. Bizarre about the effect of the caterpillar squirt! not unthinkable that it could have got into your system from either sniffing or skin of the hand...i used to have to give my cat a certain medication that if any dropped on my hand, i tasted it immediately...horrid.

  9. i think you should grow full on parsley catepillar playgrounds on you extar 66 sq feet--very bitter places no doubt. catepillars take no prisoners. anyway then you can test all theories herein with anonymous vegetarians--
    i mean, that chubster was destined to fly at some point right?

    also, dinners for the past two weeks, hot as it was, look deelishus...good work being you marie! nice!


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