Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Butterfly season in an urban habitat garden.

Swallowtail butterflies have been flying in the garden. I'm pretty sure they are Eastern Tiger Swallowtail because I have spotted both black and yellow.

Black swallowtail and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail have confused me in the past. Both are common to the area and I have seen the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail many times on the dill and fennel plants. Have not caught sight of an Eastern Tiger caterpillar yet but I keep looking.

I think I have them straight now after looking at lots of pictures and reading the identification clues over a few times.

Black Swallowtail

Identification: Upper surface of wings mostly black; on inner edge of hindwing is a black spot centered in larger orange spot. Male has yellow band near edge of wings; female has row of yellow spots. Female hindwing with iridescent blue band

Black swallowtail host plants are dill,fennel, parsely,carrots and their wild counter parts.

Caterpillars are green/yellow/black... in stripes.
We see plenty of these every year.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Identification: Male is yellow with dark tiger stripes. Female has 2 forms: one yellow like the male and the other black with shadows of dark stripes. Hindwing of both female forms has many iridescent blue scales and an orange marginal spot. On the underside of forewing of both female forms the row of marginal spots has merged into a continuous band.


Caterpillar hosts: Leaves of various plants including wild cherry (Prunus), sweetbay (Magnolia), basswood (Tilia), tulip tree (Liriodendron), birch (Betula), ash (Fraxinus), cottonwood (Populus), mountain ash (Sorbus), and willow (Salix).
Adult food: Nectar of flowers from a variety of plants including wild cherry and lilac (Syringa vulgaris).

The first sighted butterfly in our garden and most abundant so far this year has been the
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Pearl Crescent caterpillars feed on Asters. I have been growing New York Asters for a couple of years. So far no sign of the caterpillar but it must be there.

Pearl Crescent

Butterflies of Illinois

The Butterfly Lab


Butterflies overwinter in a habitat garden if there is abundant cover.
Butterflies overwintering as caterpillars or eggs use herbaceous perennials, shrubs, and trees. So leave the leaf litter and dead plants until spring to provide cover for them from predators .
Many butterflies overwinter as pupae and may attach to a host plant for the winter.
Butterflies overwintering in the adult stage may use the peeling bark on trees, perennial plants and old logs, branches or fences. Sheds, barns or houses may also provide overwintering sites.

How to create a butterfly habitat.





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