A Stunning Giant Swallowtail

Adult Giant Swallowtail. Photo by Celeste Morien
Adult Giant Swallowtail. Photo by Celeste Morien

A Giant Swallowtail nectared this week at our Monarda (bee balm or bergamot). This impressive primarily dark brown and yellow swallowtail wasn’t often seen or seen at all around Western New York when I was young, that I am aware of. It is now a welcome visitor to our butterfly gardens! 

A friend of mine propagates the larvae of Giant Swallowtail, feeding them leaves of citrus relative Northern Prickly Ash, in order to watch the interestingly patterned larva pupate into a well camouflaged chrysalis. The impressive butterfly that emerges is our largest North American butterfly.
Wikipedia says this species of Giant Swallowtails “are abundant through many parts of eastern North America.”

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Anyone finding a Giant Swallowtail caterpillar might be fooled into thinking it a bird dropping. This remarkable camouflage enables the caterpillar to escape predation!

These caterpillars are “considered a pest of ornamental citrus by growers, as its larvae feed on the foliage.” Source Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America

Fortunately, and hopefully, the caterpillars are tolerated in southern and northern backyards where residents know the coming treat of seeing the graceful flight, interesting markings and exotic beauty of this insect.

Adult Giant Swallowtail. Photo by Celeste Morien
Adult Giant Swallowtail. Photo by Celeste Morien

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