Backyard Adventures

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly

The swallowtail family of butterflies are my favorite.Their large wings, graceful shape, and colorful markings lure me into the garden. The butterflies are lured into the garden by various larval plants, each specific to their species.The eastern black swallowtail favors parsley, dill or fennel as its host plant and we have had caterpillars on all three.A few years ago the Tripps from Windy Hill Farm gave me some bronze fennel plants from their garden. They are very sturdy plants which reach 3 feet in height.  Probably due to their prominance in the garden,  I now find most of the black swallowtails lay their eggs on the bronze fennel.This is the bronze fennel plant pictured here with the black swallowtail caterpillar.Once the caterpillar is full grown it forms a chrysalis, usually wandering a distance from the larval plant. We receive great delight in watching the adult butterflies nectar at all the flowers in our garden.It’s a nice image to think about on these cold wintry days!

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar 2

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar 3

Black Swallowtail 11

Black Swallowtail 2

Black Swallowtail 8

Black Swallowtail 16

Black Swallowtail 13

Black Swallowtail 15

Black Swallowtail Nectaring in Day Lily

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail 9

Black Swallowtail 3

Black Swallowtail 14

Black Swallowtail 4

When the butterfly first emerges from the chrysalis it appears fresh and that is the ideal time to capture a photo. As you can see, by the end of their short lifespan the butterflies become tattered.Sometimes they have V shaped marks of missing scales or part of their wings, where they have managed to struggle free from a bird’s beak. Although they are no longer perfect specimins, and often look very fragile, I am amazed that they keep flying.  They show the effects of life’s precarious journey but, in my eyes, they are still beautiful.

Black Swallowtail 12

Black Swallowtail 5

Black Swallowtail 10

Black Swallowtail 6

 Read more about other larval plants to put in your garden in previous blogs on the monarch butterfly and the hops plant.