Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Black Swallowtail Butterfly | Papilio polyxenes

Nectar Plants:  Nectar from flowers including red clover, milkweed, and thistles.

The Caterpillar
When they emerge from the egg, black swallowtail caterpillars are small, brownish and hairy. They later develop a white stripe and resemble bird droppings, which makes them easy to miss. More mature caterpillars (later "instars") develop a striking black and white stripe with a pattern of yellow blotches and can grow to as much as 2 inches in length. Like other swallowtail caterpillars they have a distinctive horn-like structure behind their heads that they will raise if they feel threatened.

Host Plants for the Black Swallowtail Caterpillar
Fennel, parsley, dill, rue
Leaves of plants in the parsley family (Apiaceae) including Queen Anne's Lace, carrot, celery and dill. 
Fennel is a food plant consumed by the caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterfly. Swallowtails are the largest species of butterfly in the Unites States and among the most beautiful.The black swallowtail is so widespread that it is sometimes known as the American swallowtail.

The fennel plant, also known as Foeniculum vulgare, grows natively in the Mediterranean and is cultivated throughout the world in temperate regions. A tender perennial, fennel plant reaches up to 5 feet in height and produces aromatic leaves and seeds often used for culinary purposes. Fennel self-seeds easily and typically reaches maturity in about 100 days. Gardeners also value the plant for its ability to attract beneficial insects to the garden, particularly the caterpillar of swallowtail butterflies. Hardy in zones 5 through 10, fennel requires only minimal care to grow and thrive in most areas of the United States.
Place your fennel plant in an area that receives at least six hours of full sunlight each day. Provide high-quality, well-drained potting soil if growing in a container, or well-drained garden soil if growing in the ground. Plant in spring after all threat of frost is over. Space fennel plants at least 12 inches apart.
Water once or twice per week as necessary to keep the soil slightly moist. Fennel plant tolerates drought but performs best when watered regularly. During extreme heat, container-grown plants may require daily watering. Never allow the soil to dry out completely.
Stake the fennel plant if it's growing in a windy location to prevent damage. Once the plant reaches 18 inches in height, place a stake in the ground and use garden twine to loosely secure the plant's stalk to the stake. This will prevent it from falling over during heavy winds.
Apply a 4-inch layer of organic mulch over the soil surrounding fennel plant in late fall, just before the first frost of winter in your area. This will prevent the plant from sustaining cold damage. Remove the layer in spring after all danger of frost has passed to allow new growth.
Prune fennel plant to the ground after the first hard freeze of the year. This will help the plant survive winter. Cut back branches by several inches throughout the growing season to promote a bushier growth habit, if desired.
Remove faded or dying flowers from your fennel plant, a process known as deadheading, to prevent aggressive re-seeding. Allow some flowers to remain and turn to seed to replace plants that die, but remove most flowers for the best results.

Apiaceae Family 

Black Swallowtail-female 
(Papilio polyxenes)

Black Swallowtail and Peter's Purple Monarda