As a dad to two toddlers I find myself answering a lot of questions about all kinds of things including bugs. All summer long we encourage our kids to explore outside. We have blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, and all kinds of vegetables and herbs in our little garden. Those plants attract bugs. And bugs attract questions from toddlers.
Yesterday, we came home from a long weekend on the coast of Maine and discovered some HUGE caterpillars on our parsley plants. Naturally, my daughters wanted to know what kind of butterflies the caterpillars would turn into (all those readings of The Very Hungry Caterpillar have paid off).
Despite my repeated readings of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Some Bugs no members of our household are qualified entomologists. So to get the answer to my daughters’ questions about the caterpillars on our parsley plants I turned to iNaturalist.
iNaturalist has free mobile apps and a free website through which people share their observations of nature in their neighborhoods. It’s a great way to discover interesting things around you. It’s also a great way to find the answers to questions like, “what kind of butterfly will those caterpillars turn into?”
To get the answer to my daughters’ questions I went to the Observations section of the iNaturalist website. Once there I selected “Maine” and searched for “caterpillar” which gave me a bunch of observations that I sorted through until I found what I looked like a match to the picture that I took. That little bit research ended with me learning that the caterpillars we saw would turn into swallowtail butterflies.
In an attempt to confirm what I learned through the iNaturalist site I then went to Google Images and uploaded my picture to perform a reverse image search. Google Images suggested that the picture was of a “pest.” That wasn’t very helpful. So to help Google, I added the word “parsley” and then got much better matches and links that I then used to confirm what I had found through iNaturalist.