It’s a Small World Out There – Swallowtail Caterpillars and Teeny Ants


More a photography exploration than anything else in the photos, but it is a look at the very tiny in the garden. Tiny black garden ants are 0.118 inches long or less than 1/8 inch. I saw these ants on the dill eating pollen and thought they would make a good photo subject for my 105mm macro lens. It is a hard lens to hand hold, but I was too lazy to set up the tripod for an ant. But cute little ants are not what I was looking for on the dill… read on.

While looking at the dill to find an egg laid by a Swallowtail (which I photographed days before and shown below), these ants were very busy on the dill. I was hoping they were not after the eggs.


What I did find though, were a couple of miniscule baby Swallowtail caterpillars. It looks rather like a speck of dirt when you find them, but I enlarged it to make sure it was the teeny caterpillar. See below.

I will be keeping an eye out for the caterpillars as they grow. So what are the ants up to? They were eating the pollen of the dill. I never knew ants ate pollen, but did know they are great pollinators.


Unfortunately for my tiny Swallowtail caterpillars, a small parasitic wasp was looking for them.


It quickly left after seeing my lens, but you can see it on the hunt. The ants kept foraging.

The tiny bee shown below flew in for some nectar. The bee is shown with an even tinier Swallowtail caterpillar in the background and a closeup two images below. I’ll be watching to see them grow if they live. That would be a mighty task considering circumventing all the spiders and wasps in my garden.



Yes, it is a very small world of activity on the dill. You just have to look very, very close. Up next, what’s on the Monarda? Then the end of July garden… as we coast into a dry August from an already dry July, I will show you some more hard-working pollinator plants in the garden. I will be off to Pennsylvania shortly, posts continuing in my absence, but it may be a couple of weeks before I am back at my computer. I have a lot of traveling coming up!

Yellow-faced Bee-0

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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19 Responses to It’s a Small World Out There – Swallowtail Caterpillars and Teeny Ants

  1. aussiebirder says:

    Great macro Donna!

  2. johnvic8 says:

    Extraordinary. Thanks.

  3. Loretta says:

    How exquisite, love ’em all!

  4. I never knew that ants were pollinators. I know they like certain daylilies, and peonies, but didn’t know they liked dill. I really like the smell of fresh dill in the garden, but I haven’t planted any lately. I think I’ll plant some next year.
    I loved your photos series using your macro lens.

  5. arlene says:

    Such lovely macro shots Donna as always.

  6. All I can say is wow. You have a lot of talent and a lot of patience!

  7. alesiablogs says:

    Look at those shots!!!

  8. Stunning macros. I hope your caterpillars do manage to survive

  9. Great photos – you made me want to run out and closely examine my dill and fennel. It’s unfortunate that those parasitic wasps won’t make an exception for the caterpillars we humans like. Nature always cuts two ways.

  10. PS – enjoy your travels!

  11. Christie says:

    I’ve learned something new today! Enjoyed the insects and learning about pollinators.

  12. Donna, my jaw is on the floor. These are extraordinary photos! Seriously, crazy wonderful/wondrous. And you freakin’ hand-held when you took them?!!! I’m beyond awed. I just can’t say enough about how brilliant they/you are. Were you shooting at like 1/5000? OK, let me get my breath back. These images tell (with a little narrative help from you) a very interesting story. So much is going on on these fragile little dill flowers. So much life, so much drama and so much to learn. This post made my day, girl.

  13. Pat says:

    Beautiful macro series.

  14. Denise says:

    Those ants look huge!

  15. The detail and clarity of these images is (are?) extraordinary, Donna. I especially love the butterfly ~

  16. That’s a great lens and macrophotography. Thanks again.

  17. bittster says:

    Always a great set of photos!
    Have a great trip and I hope you enjoy your time away 🙂

  18. BethLovesBrian says:

    After reading your post, I looked at my dill and parsley last night and found at least 10 Swallowtail caterpillers on them. I really enjoy reading your posts and love all your pictures. You take some amazing shots.

  19. Fabulous shots Donna…I love watching my ants pollinate around the garden. Safe travels!

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