The Modern Southern Garden: Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly

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The Modern Southern Garden

The Profile

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly

The Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly, papilio polyexnes, is a common species that may be spotted in southern parts of Canada, west of the Rocky Mountains in the United States to Arizona & in parts of Mexico. It is Oklahoma’s & New Jersey’s state butterfly. One of its most distinctive characteristics is that the butterfly has a tail located on the hindwings. The butterflies are so active that many times they may lose one or both during their lifecycle as indicated in the above image. It isn’t difficult to coax this particular species into your garden as it has been known to simply invite itself. It should be noted however, that many of the host plants these magnificent butterflies gravitate towards are also the very ones you may be growing for your family’s personal consumption. Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies are good pollinators which do make them a beneficial insect to have in gardens. Learn about the characteristics of this beautiful butterfly so you may spot them in your own green space.

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{helpful advice}

How To Attract Butterflies Into The Garden

From spring to fall, it isn’t uncommon to see a flutter of activity near gardens filled with nectar producing flowers. Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies may be identified by their black background with a series of pale yellow dots on the backside of the wings & orange & blue dots on the underside that may be seen when perched. The bodies of these butterflies display a pattern of dots that run down its length. Natural predators may be found from the Hymenoptera family of insects which include wasps, ants, sawflies & a plethora of generally unwanted pests.

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When the right type of plants are available in close proximity, you’re almost guaranteed to see these stunning butterflies. The caterpillars typically hatch from perfectly round eggs on host plants. The transformation of the larva alone is quite amazing as they begin as black caterpillars with orange & black spikes that run down the length of them. A white band may be found in the center. As the caterpillar ages, the coloration & characteristics change greatly. White stripes emerge consistently down the body between the black sections creating a perfectly striped effect & eventually make the caterpillar appear more predominately banded in white rather than in black. The orange knobs fade to appear more yellow in color. Finally, the white striped markings change to a beautiful spring green hue. At this stage, they are ready to build their cocoons that may be either green or brown depending on the region of their specific habitat so as to blend in with the surrounding vegetation during their final growth phase. Silk suspends the cocoon in two distinctive spots on the host plant that is strategically placed in order to allow stability for the butterfly to unfold its wings for the very first time. Host plants typically include Celery, FennelItalian Parsley, Dill, Queen Anne’s Lace, Spotted Water Hemlock & Mock Bishopweed. The adult Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly, with a wingspan that can stretch up to 3 1/2-inches, feeds on nectar from many plants including lilac, Nanho Blue Buddleia or Nanho Purple Buddleia & New Gold Lantana, so be certain these garden flowers are widely available on or near your grounds to aide in attracting them. 

The Tune
“Buttons & Bows” Dinah Shore

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About Rebecca Gordon

* Southern Born * Southern Bred * Tailgate Queen * Football Fanatic * Buttermilk Lipstick Culinary & Entertaining Techniques Instructor * Cooking & Baking Tutorials * Media Personality * Baking & Pastry Artist * Gardener * Runner * Retainer of Useless Pop Culture One Liners * Terrible Dancer * Even Worse Singer * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Rebecca Gordon shares over 20 years of cooking knowledge in the instructional filled original editorial content on Buttermilk Lipstick as well as the cooking class format videos that can be found on her YouTube channel through regular collaboration with numerous media outlets. Gordon draws from an extensive background in corporate publishing spanning over 13 years on both the business and editorial side focusing on women’s southern lifestyle. She is a classically trained pastry chef and draws from fine dining restaurant experience from a James Beard award winning chef as well as her southern roots upbringing to share cooking, entertaining & style content relevant to today’s modern woman.

One Response to The Modern Southern Garden: Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly

  1. Laura K September 15, 2020 at 7:34 am #

    Beautiful pictures.