Saturday, October 4, 2014

“Some things, when they change, never do return to the way they once were. Butterflies for instance, and women who've been in love with the wrong man too often.”
Alice Hoffman

Things have slowed down considerably around The Container Butterfly Garden. I haven't seen a Monarch or other type of butterfly visit in the past couple of weeks. As such, blog posts are going to be more intermittent and will surely take a hiatus when winter approaches. That said, let's move on:

In the last post, we learned about the Anise Swallowtail and that geeky young boys can make gliders out of them. Besides the Anise Swallowtail, there are several other species that inhabit Southern California coastal areas.

 Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus

The Western Tiger Swallowtail is an occasional garden visitor, especially to those located closer to open greenbelt areas. Bigger than the Anise Swallowtail.

Pale Swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon

Appropriately named Pale Swallowtails are very similar in size and appearance to Western Tiger Swallowtails, with paler yellow color. Hardly seen in gardens, except those that have Western Sycamore trees or are near areas with sycamores; these trees being host plants for their caterpillars.

Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes

The Giant Swallowtail is North America's largest butterfly. When one visits your garden, you'll recognize it immediately! Hosts on citrus trees. Those with citrus trees nearby may get the chance to see one visiting. Was not a So Cal resident until about twenty or so years ago. Traditional range was as far west as Arizona until recently. A very graceful and elegant flyer.

Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor

This particular butterfly in my opinion, rivals some of the metallic blues found in more popularly known tropical species. Pipevine Swallowtails are not normally found in Southern California due to the fact that their host plants are pipevines, which are not native nor endemic to our area. Their numbers were greater here at the beginning of the 20th century when more homeowners planted these vines to cover porches for shade, before the advent of home air conditioning.

There are several subspecies of Pipevine Swallowtail, extending all the way across North America. California's range extends from the Oregon border to roughly the San Francisco Bay area, where our own native California Pipevine grows abundantly. I did plant some of these vines in several areas of Alta Laguna Park when I was Parks Gardener there, but I don't know if any of them survived since my retirement. I hope some did!

Not a common yard plant today to attract Pipevine Swallowtails, one will however come across pockets of them where sufficient quantities of their host plants grow. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, California has a rather large and viable population because of their extensive planting of pipevines on their grounds. There are also small populations of them recorded in San Diego, Fullerton, and even some have been observed in San Clemente.

Next year, I plan on planting one or two pipevines to see if they will attract any of these beauties that may happen to be in the area.

That's about it on swallowtail butterflies that inhabit our So Cal areas. There have been spotty reports of Black Swallowtails observed, but these are individuals who have strayed or been blown off course from their regular haunts.

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