Watching the fluttering of its beautiful yellow wings stops me in my tracks to watch where it lands. It is a beautiful yellow butterfly who gravitates to the purple coneflowers in my garden. I love to watch it glide over my flower bed picking flowers the bees are not occupying.
The range of the Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is east of the Rocky Mountains and north to Ontario Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico and into northern Mexico (according to many sources I researched). The habitat is deciduous woods near water sources such as streams, rivers, and swampy areas. Its favorite nectar sources include Joe Pyed weed, Milkweed, cherry blossoms, Petunia, Mexican sunflowers, and even the Chaste tree. You will find the Swallowtail in the suburbs and in parks visiting the purple coneflowers, butterfly bushes, and other nectar filled plants in the landscaped beds.
The yellow male with their black tiger stripe wings flies alone searching for a mate. The female will lay its green eggs one at time on the leaves of the host plant which include Sweet Bay Magnolia, Tulip tree (Liriodendron), Birch (Betula), Willow (salix), Cottonwood (Populus), Mountain Ash (Sorbus), and wild cherry (Prunus). The caterpillars will rest on the top side of the leaves on a silky blanket before turning into a chrysalid that will overwinter. The Swallowtail will lay up to 2 ‘broods’ in the Northern parts of its range to 3 in the southern part of the US and into Mexico.
The young female Swallowtail will appear to be darker and an almost blue to a black color (this is noticeable when her wings are spread open). As she matures, she will become lighter but will have beautiful blue markings on top and bottom of her wings. The wingspan on the butterfly ranges from 2 1/2″ to 6 1/2″.
In my garden the purple coneflowers are what attracts the butterflies. I watch as the Swallowtail drink in the nectar through their proboscis. It is so cool to watch as they poke their proboscis like a straw in and out of the flower head. Coneflowers are so easy to grow and a great nectar source for butterflies!
I hope to add more pics and I keep a diligent eye out but since 2 of my neighbors had a company come and soak their yards, foundations, and even the trees with pesticides. I am not sure how many bees and butterflies were murdered in their attempts to kill the bad bugs. However, I can say with fact that my bee population is down since they sprayed and I have only seen 2 Swallowtails this season. I also had a pair of finches that visit my Black eyed Susans and I have not seen them either since the spray. (enough of my rant about random spraying of pesticides)
Attracting the butterflies can get the kids interested in nature too. Planting with nature for nature is a win-win situation for everyone! Happy gardening and plant a flower, attract a butterfly, and feed a bee.
2015 copyrighted material C Renee Fuller @the Garden Frog Boutique
Here is a link with more info and pics: