I was delighted yesterday afternoon to look our my living room window and see a  giant swallowtail butterfly flighting around my Gelsemium vine.  At first I thought she was newly emerged from her cocoon, since she was flying in a drunken pattern, but it turns out this species of swallowtail has a characteristic pattern of flying that looks like hopping.  Isn’t she lovely?!
Swalowtail on Gelsemium in phoenix arizonaSwallowtails are dear to my heart.  Last year the fennel I planted was completely decimated by dozens of the swallowtail caterpillars.  Any other creature would have gotten the boot, but I was willing to sacrifice the plant for my favorite butterfly.  Luckily the plant survived and this year is boasting a full crop of seeds.

Fennel is one of the host plants for anise swallowtails and black swallowtails.  Perhaps I love the swallowtails simply because if I plant fennel they always appear in my garden.  Such a reliable friend!  Pretty stunning caterpillars as well.  Hungry little guys though!

Black Swallowtail caterpillars from Wikipedia

Black Swallowtail caterpillars from Wikipedia

While I am familiar with the larvae (caterpillars) of black swallowtails, I was surprised to see the caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail. It is designed to look like bird droppings.


Not exactly attractive.  Also, it doesn’t host on fennel, but prefers citrus.  I’ll have to keep my eyes open for this one.  My citrus are too small to support a group of gluttons!

Giant Swallowtail caterpillar

“Papilio cresphontes larva” by TokyoJunkie (Wikipedia)