Butterfly season has begun!

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Last week I noticed a pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) flying around the pipevine (Aristolochia tomentosa). As I suspected, I later found these eggs. Some of them are beginning to turn dark, and I expect to see tiny caterpillars soon.

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly eggs

I also recently noticed a black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) hovering around the fennel, and later found tiny white eggs. At first glance, this photograph may look like black specks on green foliage. However these are actually 3-day-old caterpillars.

Fennel with tiny black swallowtail caterpillars

This is a close-up of one of the caterpillars, which is about 1/8 inch long.

3 day-old Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

I’ve found that butterfly eggs often disappear when left outside, and I assume they’re delicacies for several creatures. I often bring the eggs inside, partly to increase their survival rate, but mostly to enjoy watching them become adult butterflies. It’s a fascinating process, and I wish everyone could have the experience. It’s relatively easy, and a great summer activity for kids and adults alike. My tips for raising black swallowtails may be helpful.

I’d be glad to know what butterflies you are seeing. I’m especially interested to know if you’re seeing monarchs. If you live locally and would like a caterpillar or two to raise, let me know – I sometimes have extras.

8 thoughts on “Butterfly season has begun!”

  1. Spectacular, Betty!
    Thanks – pleased here to watch feeding Ruby-throat and Pileated in same visual field as our two bird size extremes – recently had my first sightings ever of Hummingbird Moth – no Zebra Swallowtails nor Monarchs yet…
    DHB

    1. DH, Sorry you haven’t seen Monarchs or Zebras. Glad you’ve seen the Hummingbird Moth. I see them occasionally and always a treat, but not so far this year. I’m not seeing any Hummingbirds yet and would be shocked to see a Pileated in our yard. However, glad to know you have them.

  2. Hi Betty. Nice photo of the pipeline eggs. They are very cool cats. I do believe that they might be cannabalistic like the zebra swallowtail. As they travel and eat as a group, I noticed last season that their number diminished. Have you had that experience? No monarchs in Virginia Beach yet. We’ve seen Zebras, Black Swallowtail, Tiger Swallowtail, American Painted Lady and, of course, lots of cabbage whites. I am currently releasing spice bush hatching from overwintering as chrysalis and Red Spotted Purples that over wintered as cats in tubes they created…..so interesting. Have also had 3 Giant Leopard Moth cats, one of which has hatched. They are eating plantain ; ). Agree what a wonderful activity for children and even the big kids like us ; ). Hope you see lots of butterflies this summer.

    Chris

    1. Thanks for your report, Christine. Zebra swallowtails – cannibalistic? I had no idea. I’ve done a bit of checking and it seems almost all of the swallowtail caterpillars can be cannibalistic if they do not have enough food! Quite interesting! No, I haven’t noticed their numbers decreasing.

      Sorry to hear no Monarchs yet in Virginia Beach. I’m impressed that you are releasing spicebush swallowtails from winter chrysalises. They were no where to be seen here last summer. I’ve never raised a red-spotted Purple. Their tubes sounds intriguing. Nor have I raised a Giant Leopard Moth though I think they are quite handsome and would love to give it a try. I appreciate your endorsement as to the enjoyment of raising these creatures – even for big kids like us. 🙂 – Good luck with your ‘nursery’ and Happy butterfly days to you, too.

    1. Oh, Judy, where or where are the Monarchs? 🙁

      Glad to know of your ‘nursery’. Have never raised Tiger Swallowtails or Luna Moths. They are both beautiful creatures and I’ll give them a try if I get the chance.

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