Each week during the butterfly season we will feature a host plant that we have experience with, or just find interesting!Females prefer to lay eggs on younger plants that tend to be out of the direct sun.Fennel tends to be favored for egg laying compared to other host plants.Attracts unusual pollinator insects like beetles, wasps, and assorted flies.The fronds can be used in cooking and do have a licorice odor that is quite pungent when being used as a host plant for Black Swallowtail caterpillars.Typically you will not see the female lay eggs as she operates under a cloud of secrecy and cover of darkness.Left to right: Black Swallowtail pupa attached to fennel stalks; Black Swallowtail eggs; Female laying eggs; Late instar caterpillar who has eaten all of the fennel seeds and is now sad. .

Out My Backdoor: Best Bet for Black Swallowtails

This is especially true if a homeowner plants one of the butterfly's favorite host plants—bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).Instead, females have two narrow bands of yellow spots along the trailing edge of the upper surfaces of their wings.The ancient Romans and Greeks used fennel for many purposes—to repel insects, treat sickness and eat as food.In such settings, you can enjoy being able to harvest fresh herbs used in preparing mouthwatering dishes for your family, while providing handsome black swallowtails with much-needed food plants for their caterpillars.Although I have always been successful in establishing a stand of fennel in this manner, it takes a couple of years for the plants to attain a decent size.It seems when you set out only a few plants, if a female black swallowtail lays eggs on them, before long a gang of hungry boldly marked green and black-banded caterpillars with orange-yellow spots will voraciously devour all of the plants' foliage, leaving you with the dilemma of figuring out how you can keep the caterpillars from starving.I have even placed caterpillars on an alternative host plant such as wild carrot in hopes they will continue to feed and develop.).Needless to say, it did not take the sharp-eyed mockingbird that regularly visited the feeder long to spot the juicy caterpillars feeding on the nearby fennel.Aside from creating a beautiful natural backdrop to a garden, bronze fennel provides homeowners an ideal opportunity to watch the life cycle of a butterfly without ever leaving their backyard.If one curls her abdomen in the shape of a comma and touches it to a fennel plant, I know she is laying eggs.When this occurs, you are handsomely rewarded for all of your efforts to provide the black swallowtail with a place to produce a new generation of these stunning butterflies.Learn more about TERN, see previous “Out My Backdoor” columns, read Terry’s Backyard Wildlife Connection blog and check out his latest book, “A Journey of Discovery: Monroe County Outdoors.”. .

Fennel For the Butterflies – Garden Betty

In the back of my garden, I have a small patch of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) that grows year-round and stands five feet tall.Sometimes I’ll harvest the fronds for a salad or a bulb for my favorite seafood stew, or even the pollen or seeds for my cooking, but for the most part, I let the fennel grow “wild” here.Aside from being edible and beautiful with wisps of anise fragrance wafting through the air, it also happens to be a beneficial plant that functions as a trap crop.They have large appetites, so unless you planted enough for yourself and the butterflies, it can be a depressing sight to see your food crop munched down to its stems by an army of hungry caterpillars. .

Caterpillar Quiz: How to Tell the Difference between Monarchs and

Photo by Monika Maeckle First of all, Jennifer, a Monarch caterpillar would not be found eating dill, since it only hosts on milkweed species.The Monarch, Denaus plexippus, exhibits orange-and-black markings that resemble a stained glass window.The dark blue-and-black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes, boasts elegant cream, gold and orange dots.Photo by Monika Maeckle Eastern Swallowtail, wings open, nectaring on milkweed.Swallowtails will host on members of the Apiaceae family, which includes parsley, Queen Anne’s Lace, carrot, celery, fennel and dill.Swallowtails will also host on plants in the citrus (Rutaceae) family, including rue bushes and lemon, lime and orange trees.If you find a green-striped caterpillar noshing on fennel, it’s a Swallowtail; a stripe-suited chomper chowing down on your Antelope Horns is a Monarch.The ones in front are technically antennae and have special sensory cells, while the ones on the back are “just for show”–to throw off predators.When bothered or poked, yellow tentacles pop out of their head and emit a distinctive, sickly sweet odor.In answer to Jennifer’s question about what to do about a lack of dill, I suggest planting plenty of it–some for yourself, and some for the caterpillars. .

Top 10 Butterfly Host Plants to Attract Pollinators

As your favorite winged beauties transition through their life cycle, many lay eggs on the undersides of specific host plants.And butterflies do most of their eating during their larval phase as caterpillars, feeding exclusively on the leaves of host plants specific to their species.If you’re starting this beauty from seed or small nursery plants, be prepared to provide support for its tendrils to cling and wind.If you want to make an impact in your garden, this tall butterfly host plant is an easy choice.Butterfly benefits: Painted lady caterpillars rely on several different plants as food sources, including hollyhocks and various spring annuals.Butterfly benefits: Several caterpillars like to munch on willow trees, including viceroy, western tiger swallowtail and mourning cloak.Generally grown for its culinary uses, dill is also an unconventionally attractive butterfly host plant with its feathery, aromatic green leaves and yellow buds.Butterfly benefits: If you’re looking to snip some dill for use in your own kitchen, you’ve got to get your hands on it before the black swallowtails chow it down.This tree grows about 30 feet tall, so be sure to leave plenty of space for this beauty to mature.Butterfly benefits: A western species, the two-tailed swallowtail caterpillar enjoys feeding on the foliage of the chokecherry tree.Mostly grown as an annual or a short-lived perennial in Zones 5 to 9, snapdragons are great butterfly host plants for adding height to a landscape.These garden classics’ stalks can reach about 4 feet tall with blooms in a variety of colors: white, pink, purple, orange or red.Annual violas actually prefer full sun but will thrive in cooler temperatures of partial shade.You may know oak trees by the fantastic orange, red and yellow foliage show they put on every autumn.Blooming from midsummer to early fall, this plant boasts small, flat-topped clumps of white flowers reaching about 2 feet tall.This easygoing and versatile grass is a good choice for wet conditions, drought or partial shade, as long as it’s planted in moist, well­-draining soil.Growing narrow and upright with a cloud of seed heads in fall, switchgrass can reach more than 5 feet tall.Populations of these winged jewels and their striped caterpillars are plummeting, largely because of the eradication of milkweed.It’s a monarch host plant but so many butterflies also love it!” says Irma Boucher of Prince Frederick, Maryland.“My favorites for caterpillars include spicebush and tulip poplar trees,” says Lyn Cosby of Atlanta, Georgia.“For years I have grown fennel and parsley in my butterfly garden,” says Sarah Doan of Roca, Nebraska.I see swallowtails lay their eggs throughout the summer, and my kids are thrilled when they spot caterpillars,” says Leslie Henriques of Grosse Pointe, Michigan.“I delight in watching monarchs deposit their eggs on my common milkweed leaves and I often stare in overwhelming wonder as the beautiful—and ravenous—monarch caterpillars munch,” says Jo Harris of Jonesborough, Tennessee. .

Dogfennel — Buffalo Bayou PartnershipBuffalo Bayou Partnership

The only reason I ever got interested is that dogfennel’s feathery foliage makes it look like an over-large fennel or dill.I had no idea what it was, but the similarity to fennel and dill made me hope that this plant, too was a host for black swallowtail caterpillars.While the caterpillars were absent, there were lady bugs galore, adult, larva and pupa.When someone finally identified my impressive weed, I was able to look it up and learn that it is quite toxic, containing compounds that cause liver failure.For many years, he had elevated liver enzymes and I spent an absurd amount of money trying to diagnose the problem.I ran into dogfennel in the Park (north side of bayou, west of Jackson Hill bridge), and stopped to take a look.There is the counterintuitive fact that the plant was named dogfennel because it looked like fennel and people put it in dog beds to keep the fleas down.I briefly entertained the notion that the sucking insects were making themselves unpalatable by feeding on toxic dogfennel.For a plant that has loomed large in my psyche for many years, dogfennel is almost ignored by academia except with regard to eradicating it.There is a tiny bit of literature about one insect, the scarlet bodied wasp moth, that makes use of dogfennel.The males extract toxins from dogfennel, no one really explains how, and “sprays” a toxic brew over the female when they mate.The sharp red color of this moth is often a warning to predators of a poisonous meal. .

What Did Black Swallowtails Eat Before we Brought In Parsley, Dill

Carrots, Parsley, Dill, Fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace: not native.But I started to wonder what these caterpillars ate BEFORE the European settlement when none of those plants were present in this country.Now I am nothing if not determined, so several hours later I FINALLY found the answer at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.I am not suggesting that you stop planting parsley, dill, or carrots for the Black Swallowtails in your butterfly garden, but fennel can be a little aggressive in the garden, and Queen Anne’s Lace is invasive in many areas (but is a main ingredient in many wildflower mixes which I call “meadow in a can”), so I’d avoid both of those.If you notice Black Swallowtail caterpillars on any of those plants, take a photograph and send it to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlflower Center. .

How to Raise Eastern Black Swallowtails- Butterfly Life Cycle Photos

A bird’s eye view of the abdomen distinguishes a true black swallowtail from its close relatives….Wasps are beneficial pollinators, but in large numbers they can wreak havoc on the caterpillar population in your garden.One of the pros of fennel is that it contrasts beautifully with black swallowtail eggs to make finding them easy, considering their small size….Unlike monarchs, eastern black swallowtails will often lay eggs on the tops of leaves, which can make them a little easier to find.I was not expecting to find them on our golden Alexander plant, but they were easy to see against contrasting yellow blooms.Common rue is also easy to use with floral tubes and is also a host plant for Giant Swallowtail Butterflies.Fennel is a top host plant for attracting eastern black swallowtails and the feathery foliage is beautiful addition to the garden landscape….Other host plants for black swallowtails include curly parsley, dill, and carrot tops.I’m not aware of any disease or in-fighting issues, but I’d suggest raising them on elevated stem cuttings to keep them separated.Before the caterpillar searches for that perfect spot to form its chrysalis, it will purge any remaining food all over the cage floor.In the late summer and fall, the chrysalis colors are more likely to blend in with the tree branches that will hide them from predators over winter.A monarch chrysalis will hatch reliably in 7-10 days, but the swallowtail family is on a European vacation schedule.When the adult butterfly emerges, it will come out of the top of the chrysalis, and find a place to hang down to expand and dry its wings properly:.As with monarchs, I suggest placing eastern black swallowtail butterflies outside in a closed mesh cage for a couple hours to sunergize 🌞 them.Would you like to start raising eastern black swallowtails through all 4 stages of the butterfly life cycle? .

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