For years, we’ve been growing a little patch of fennel. The original idea was that we’d have some good fresh herbs to nibble on.

The first year that changed as our fennel became the host to two batches of Black Swallowtail caterpillars also called parsley caterpillars. Starting with the little orange eggs and continuing to the stages of caterpillar maturation from worms that look like little bird dropping to the giant green and black thumb-sized dragons with their dramatically erupting orange horns (osmeterium).

We started capturing a few and taking them inside to safely mature and to pupate and to winter over and to emerge as butterflies the next spring.

But our fennel experience didn’t stop with Black Swallowtails. Some years, a colony of praying mantis would appear. That colony would decrease in population every day — in part due to the cannibalistic tendencies of the nymphs — until by summer’s end, we had one large fat and happy mantis would be hiding in the fennel fronds.

This year, deer discovered the fennel. They nipped it back into a tighter bush. This despite all claims that fennel is rabbit and deer resistant. The rabbits, so far haven’t crossed the patch of oregano that encircles the fennel for their devastating munching.

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