Backyard Butterflies

April 2021 Edition

Hello reader,

I hope this month's newsletter finds you well and in good spirits. Caterpillar season has arrived and we're ready to feed lots of hungry larvae!

John found our first Black Swallowtail eggs around April 5th with the first caterpillars hatching the evening of April 11th, one of which is this month's feature photo.

On the 12th we found the 20th species of caterpillar in our habitat: two Silvery Checkerspots. We've been waiting for years to finally have them be in our yard. We've provided them with assorted rudbeckias and never noticed any caterpillars. The host plant we discovered them on is Early Sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides, which is not a true sunflower.

Today (April 14th) we found clutches of Pipevine Swallowtail eggs on the newly growing Aristolochia tomentosa leaves! The vine has just broken dormancy so it's a good thing we have some Aristolochia fimbriata as a back-up.

We'll be periodically adding more varieties of plants to our online plant shop as they become ready to go for their forever homes. This week we restocked Paw Paw trees and Spicebush. We most likely won't restock them once they are sold out, so now is your chance to buy one.

Let's Go Butterflying!

Life Cycle of the Eastern Black Swallowtail

The Eastern Black Swallowtail (EBT) caterpillar uses host plants in the Carrot Family (Apiaceae) which includes parsley, dill, and fennel. Gardeners who grow these herbs may refer to them as "parsley worms".

From egg to butterfly is about one month during the spring and summer. In the late summer into fall the chrysalis hibernates for 6-10 months before the adult ecloses in the spring. Butterflies live for just a few weeks in the spring and summer.

Black Swallowtail Life Cycle
Click image for full size

50% Off Sale

Parsley, Fennel & Dill

Sale Ends April 30, 2021

Black Swallowtail caterpillar on parsley

Tips for Raising Black Swallowtails

  • You can never over feed a caterpillar. Be sure to have an adequate supply of caterpillar safe host plant.
  • Always assume that any host plant you buy that is intended for human consumption has been treated with pesticides. This includes organic pesticides.
  • To keep host plants from wilting or drying out, poke holes in the lid of snack cups and use them as vases.
  • Be on the look-out for a big sludge of frass. It means the caterpillar has purged and is getting ready to pupate and become a chrysalis.
  • Don't over crowd caterpillars in their rearing container.

Snowberry Clearing Moth Love

The Snowberry Clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis) caterpillars I raised last fall have started to eclose! These moths are butterfly-like in that they are diurnal, drink nectar, have specific host plants, and have smooth antennae (but lack knobs). They are often seen with their close relatives the Hummingbird Clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe).

All of the "Snowies" I've raised so far have been found on Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle) or a L. sempervirens hybrid. Other host plants include dogbane and snowberry.

Be sure to check out a video of a Snowy's first flight on our Facebook page.
Little Snowy posing with the honeysuckle plant it ate as a caterpillar

Delivery Tracking

We've been testing out a new delivery tracking app to help us with order deliveries and provide you with delivery confirmation.

When you place an order you should receive an automated email from 'notify' that will provide you with a tracking ID. You can track your delivery using the link provided in the email or by clicking on Track Delivery on your My Account page and entering the tracking ID.

Yard Assessment

beebalm yard
Not sure what plants to grow in your habitat? We can help by conducting a yard assessment that will provide you with a plant recommendation list.

Caterpillar Support

We offer Caterpillar Support to those who are in need of host plants, foster care, or adoption of caterpillars.

There are 20 species of caterpillar that we can provide the host plant for, and we can also provide host plants for some species of moths.

This program is free of charge. All you need to do is apply letting us know what host plants you need, or if you need us to foster care, adopt your caterpillars, or relocate chrysalises.

Plant Pots Return Request

We appreciate the return of pots for re-use. Leave them on your porch and we'll collect them when we deliver your next order, or you can drop them off on our porch.

Coming in May:

Monarchs & Milkweeds