Happy Birthday? Eastern Black Swallowtail

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What a treat to discover a newly emerged Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly while working in our garden today.   I was a little surprised to notice that this butterfly was clinging to a stem and not a flower, and didn’t move as I trimmed the grass nearby.  It took a moment to register that it was still clinging beside its now empty chrysalis and just beginning to stretch and dry its wings.

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Our newly emerged butterfly clung to a stalk of chives, a ready food source once he or she is able to climb up to the flowers.  Right across the path, lots more cats were still happily munching the bronze fennel!

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We plant the fennel hoping to witness this beautiful display each year.  A perennial, it will put out some new growth within a few weeks.

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Eastern Black Swallowtail larvae

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I’m not sure whether this butterfly is a male or female, as I didn’t get a photo of its wings spread from its dorsal side.  It was still seeing the world anew and adjusting to life with wings!  I’ll hope to spot and photograph is individual again in the coming days.

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If you intend to attract butterflies to your own garden, please remember to abstain from using any insecticides and follow organic gardening principles.  Provide host plants for the species you hope to attract, and offer plentiful nectar plants, wet earth where the butterflies can ‘puddle’ to drink, and trees where they can seek shelter.

Many folks these days want to plant lots of milkweed to attract butterflies.  Please keep in mind that the only common butterfly species in our area to use milkweed, Asclepias species, as a larval host is the Monarch.  Other popular host plants, especially for swallowtails, include dill, parsley, fennel, spicebush, rue, Queen Ann’s lace, wild cherry, poplar, apple, ash, and Dutchman’s pipe.

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Happy butterfly gardening!

Woodland Gnome 2018

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

7 responses to “Happy Birthday? Eastern Black Swallowtail

  1. Lucky timing for you! Such a magnificent creature!

    • Yes, that is so flashy. We get so many monarch butterflies here, enough that one of my former neighborhoods was known as Monarch Grove, but other specie are uncommon.

      • I’d be happy living in a place where Monarchs are so common ❤ ❤ ❤

        • Well, sometimes they get to be so crowded that they land on flat surfaces, including roadways. Then, no one wants to drive.

          • Hard to imagine- we just don’t see that many here. Do folks work to protect them when they are that abundant?

            • Well, I am not at all protective of monarch butterflies, but even I do not want to run them over with a car! That is just unpleasant!
              There are two groups of treehuggers here that complicate environmentalism in a serious way. Some want to protect the butterflies at all cost, and also protect the blue gum and red gum trees that they swarm to. Others want the invasive exotic gum trees to be removed because they are so detrimental to the ecosystem, and they distract the monarch butterflies from pollinating the native California poppy and other native plants. The California poppy, although not endangered yet, is not nearly as common as it had been just a few decades ago.

    • Absolutely! Lucky for him that I saw him in time, too, as I was after that general area with the string trimmer! He was hanging just high enough on the stem that the trimmer went under him. What a terrifying experience for a little guy just out in the world! I hadn’t noticed how bright and vivid a butterfly’s wings are when just out of the chrysalis! Magical ❤

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