Attracting Swallowtail Butterflies

Last fall, I showed you a glimpse of the monarch butterflies life cycle.
monarch chysalis
I also want to show you another caterpillar I had in my flowerbeds.
The spicebush swallowtail butterfly will lay its eggs on a spicebush tree (Lindera benzoin)

spicebush-early spring
or sassafras tree.
I have 4 spicebush in various flowerbeds and this seems to be their favorite choice for laying their eggs.
A tell-tale sign you have had a spicebush caterpillar on your tree is this
The caterpillar will excrete a silk-like material on the leaf which causes the leaf to fold up.
This is their protection from birds, spiders and dragonflies to name a few.
When the caterpillars are very small, their protection is to look like bird poop.
As they grow, they begin to develop large “eye spots” which is supposed to frighten predators.
spicebush spicebush
This past summer, I had a huge number of swallowtail caterpillars.  Many on the spicebush (Spicebush swallowtail) but also a large number on my bronze fennel and Rue (Eastern swallowtail)
swallowtail on rue
swallowtail caterpillar on rue
How many do you see?
swallowtails on rue
I collected many of the caterpillars and placed them in my large aquarium to form their chrysalis and overwinter.
swallowtail chrysalis
munching on parsley
Unlike monarchs, swallowtails will survive the winter in their cozy chrysalis.
swallowtail caterpillar
preparing to form chrysalis
swallowtail chrysalis
swallowtail chrysalis
Amazingly, I have 93 swallowtails that are overwintering in the aquarium.  As the temperatures begin to rise, they will gradually emerge and begin their life cycle.
Which means spring is close!
In the meantime, if you are wanting to attract swallowtails to your garden this year, you can plant a variety of host plants for them.  Parsley, dill, fennel, the herb rue, queen anne’s lace along with the spicebush have been favorites in my garden.
Just remember, if you plant them, they will come!