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!


About the blonde gardener

I'm an Arkansas girl born and raised. I garden in the beautiful Northwest part of the state (zone 6b or 7) surrounded by the Ozark Mountains. My favorite part about the area is we have 4 distinct seasons and are able to enjoy a variety of activities. My main passion is gardening but I also enjoy hiking, birding, 4-wheeling and motorcycle trips. Basically anything outside. Thanks for stopping by! Brenda
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17 Responses to Attracting Swallowtail Butterflies

  1. joepyeweed1 says:

    I usually get caterpillars on my parsley, but have never really spotted any caterpillars on my one spicebush yet, though I think I did see a spicebush butterfly that had just emerged one spring.


  2. How about dill for the swallowtail?
    I’ve seen this or a very similar caterpillar on my rue. They seem to leave my bronze fennel alone, and seem to gobble the dill?
    Oh, also, I have a Carolina allspice–do spicebush swallowtails like that one?


    • Swallowtails LoVE dill but for some reason they prefer my bronze fennel and rue. Parsley is there backup (in my garden) when both rue and fennel are getting low.
      Carolina allspice is not a host plant for the swallowtails, but they do like the nectar.


  3. bhoyt10 says:

    I’m amazed that you have all these butterflies! I’m going to try to add some plants to attract some this summer!


  4. Mags Corner says:

    Wow! That is amazing. Thank you for the heads up on the plants they like I shall see if I can draw some to my yard this year.


  5. I have five spicebush plants and every year I plant parsley and dill, but I have yet to see a single swallowtail caterpillar! Humph.


  6. Holleygarden says:

    93!!!! That is amazing!!! I used to have a spicebush plant, but I dug it up. (silly me) Your post has made me realize I need to replace it!


  7. bittster says:

    Wow, 93 is amazing. Your pictures make me wonder if I should have been more careful with cleanup around the fennel. I’ll definitely keep an eye out this spring once I can get out there.


    • Although they love to eat the fennel, they rarely make their chrysalis on the fennel. I have found them in door frames and under steps. That’s why I like to put them in my aquarium–to keep up with them!


  8. Brenda I really enjoyed seeing this post as I planted several spicebush last fall and hope they grow and attract this butterfly.


  9. Pingback: Creating a Butterfly Garden – Arkansas Women Bloggers

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