Category Archives: Swallowtails

Looking for a Black Swallowtail Chrysalis

I am looking for a Black Swallowtail chrysalis to film. The last generation of the previous summer’s black swallowtail caterpillars spends the winter in their chrysalis form. Often times the winter chrysalis is a woody brown, not green. The late season caterpillar may pupate under the eaves of a house, along a porch or deck rail, or on a fence. I am hoping that amongst all my many readers, someone has a brown Black Swallowtail chrysalis in their garden.

Black Swallowtail chrysalis, green form

There are several distributors from where butterfly and moth chrysalis may be purchased, but I would prefer to film a Cape Ann specimen in its natural habitat (or at least a Black Swallowtail chyrsalis from the New England area). Please let me know if you think you have the brown form of the Black Swallowtail chrysalis. THANK YOU!!!

Black Swallowtail chrysalis, brown form–image courtesy Google image search

Reminder Thursday Night Premiere

Dear Friends,

A full schedule is planned this week–fall plantings, the premiere of The Butterfly Garden at Willowdale, and my lecture in New Hampshire. Rather than cooking half the night away, I planned ahead and spent the weekend making lots of treats for Thursday’s premiere. I hope you can come!!

Thursday morning’s lecture in Amherst, Butterfly Gardening, promises to be a joyful, and informative, program. This summer my Fujifilm x100 gave me many new photos that I can include in my lecture series and I couldn’t resist creating an entirely new slide show. I sorted though thousands of new photos over the weekend. And now, to tackle the video footage shot this summer and autumn—a daunting task ahead, but one I am sure will be  rewarding!

I hope you are warm and cozy and not without power. Sixty-degree temperatures are predicted for the weekend! New England weather—so very predictably unpredictable!

Warmest wishes, Kim

 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Willowdale Estate

Oriental Lily Casa Blanca

Monarch Butterfly Emerging from Chrysalis

Black Swallowtail Pooping and Eating Fennel Simultaneously

Black Swallowtail Newly Pupated, Discarded Skin-Caught Mid-air!

Butterfly Eyes

Eye to Eye

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

A butterfly’s eyes are relatively enormous, spherical structures referred to as compound eyes. Consisting of thousands of hexagonal shaped omatidea, each omatidea, or mini-sensor, is directed at a slightly different angle from the others. Collectively they are directed forwards, backwards, left, right, up, and down. For this reason, butterflies are able to see in nearly every direction simultaneously.

Hackberry Emperor Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly Eye

Vision is well developed in butterflies and most species are sensitive to the ultraviolet spectrum. The ability to see colors may be widespread but has been demonstrated in only a few species.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Emerges During Hurricane Irene

This gorgeous female Black Swallowtail butterfly emerged during Hurricane Irene. What to do when a butterfly ecloses during inclement weather? Take a moment to enjoy it’s beauty close-up, provide food in the way of nectar plants, and wait until the storm abates before releasing.

Newly Emerged Female Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes)

Butterflies of Massachusetts

July Butterfly Update

Great Spangled Fritillary Nectaring on Coneflower at Willowdale EstateGreat Spangled Fritillary nectaring at native Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Dear Friends,

Have you noticed the sheer numbers of our winged friends? Returning this evening from a swim at 6:45, I bumped into three Monarchs nectaring and a Red-spotted Purple (all in pristine, newly emerged condition). Early evening is an unusually late time of day for butterflies on the wing, especially when skies are slightly overcast. This, after a day of observing and shooting numerous numbers of butterflies, caterpillars and hummingbirds–and never leaving our garden. I work for a bit, but then the garden calls and I’m out the door with both video and still cameras. If this fabulously warm weather keeps up, I think we are in for another banner year with the butterflies, and skippers too.

Currently, we have 28 Monarchs, in various stages of development, residing in our kitchen, and seven Black Swallowtail caterpillars and chrysalids.

Black Swallowtail CaterpillarBlack Swallowtail Caterpillar–note the fine “girdle” spun by the pupating caterpillar. Attached to the stem by both the girdle and a silky mat in which his last proleg is hooked, the caterpillar is securely latched. The proleg becomes the cremaster during pupation.

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis newly formedNewly formed chyrsalis

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis The darkening chyrsalis–perhaps it will emerge tomorrow! After ten days, the silky girdle and cremaster continue to perfectly support the pupa.

I am often asked why I collect butterfly eggs and don’t simply leave them in the garden. Butterfly larvae have a roughly one in ten chance of survival in the wild. In our kitchen, the odds increase exponentially, with a ten in ten rate of survival. For instance, I have learned, that after observing a butterfly deposit her eggs on a host plant, to gather them up quickly. If I become distracted and wait even only an hour, they often disappear, usually having been eaten or parasitized.

Common Buckeye and bee nectaring at native Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)Common Buckeye and bee nectaring at native Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

More detailed information on each species will be forthcoming. Much footage to edit…

Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice

Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice ~ My favorite photo of the season (click on the photo to see full size). Yesterday afternoon, Lisa Smith, one of the producers over at Cape Ann TV, with her After the Beach Video Club for Teens, were filming in the garden. While Patrice was interviewing me, this Question Mark alighted briefly on her shoulder several times. I was prepared the second time, with camera ready and adjusted to the appropriate settings. The Question Mark’s cooperation throughout the day’s shoot–nectaring, sunning itself, and taking long sips of sap through the chinks of bark in the weathered old pear tree–was very much appreciated by all; he was the true star of the day!

Oh Joyous July!

No, that is not a Monarch caterpillar on your parsley plant.

I am often asked “why is that green, yellow, and black Monarch caterpillar eating my parsley”?

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillarBlack Swallowtail Caterpillar

Chances are, you will never see a Monarch caterpillar on your parsley. By far and away it is more likely that you have the caterpillar of the gorgeous Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes).

Caterpillars that are actively feeding are usually only found on their larval host plant(s), the plant they have developed a distinctive coevolutionary relationship with over millennia. Monarch caterpillars do not eat parsley and Black Swallowtail caterpillars do not eat milkweed, and if either attempted, they would not survive. Black Swallowtails were in the past commonly referred to as the Parsnip Swallowtail as their caterpillar food plants belong to members of the Umbelliferae, or Carrot Family. The diet  of the Black Swallowtail caterpillar includes the foliage and flowers of carrot plants, fennel, dill, parsley, Queen Anne’s lace, and parsnips.

Monarch CaterpillarMonarch Caterpillars

The Monarch caterpillar is yellow, black, and white. The Black Swallowtail caterpillar is green, black, and yellow.

Please see my Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly film’s website for videos and more photos documenting the butterfly’s life cycle.

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillarMetamorphosing from this

to this…

Eastern Black Swallowtail ButterflyBlack Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes)

See Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly film website for videos and more photos documenting the butterfly’s life cycle.

Our Beautiful Native Sweet Bay Magnolia

Magnolia virginiana ~ Sweet Bay Magnolia

Located in the heart of Ravenswood Park in Gloucester there is a stand of Magnolia virginiana growing in the Great Magnolia Swamp. It is the only population of Magnolia virginiana known to grow this far north. I took one look at the native sweet bay magnolia and breathed in the fresh lemon-honeysuckle scent of the blossoms, fell in love, and immediately set out to learn all I could about this graceful and captivating tree. Recently having returned from a trip to visit my family in northern Florida, I had tucked the bud of a Magnolia grandiflora into my suitcase. I was dreaming of someday having a garden large enough to accommodate a Magnolia grandiflora and was overjoyed to discover the similarities between M. virginiana and M. grandiflora. For those not familiar with the Southern magnolia, it is a grand, imposing specimen in the landscape, growing up to fifty feet in the cooler zones five and six, and one hundred feet plus in the southern states. M. grandiflora is the only native magnolia that is reliably evergreen in its northern range, flowering initially in the late spring and sporadically throughout the summer. The creamy white flowers, enormous and bowl-shaped (ten to twelve inches across), emit a delicious, heady sweet lemon fragrance.

Sweetbay Magnolia virginiana Gloucester Massachusetts

In contrast, the flowers of the sweetbay magnolia are smaller, ivory white, water-lily cup shaped, and sweetly scented of citrus and honeysuckle. The leaves are similar in shape to the Magnolia grandiflora, ovate and glossy viridissimus green on the topside, though they are more delicate, and lack the leathery toughness of the Southern magnolia. The lustrous green above and the glaucous silvery green on the underside of the foliage creates a lovely ornamental bi-color effect as the leaves are caught in the seasonal breezes.

Sweetbay Magnolia virginiana bud Gloucester Massachusetts

Magnolia virginiana is an ideal tree for a small garden in its northern range growing to roughly twenty feet compared to the more commanding height of a mature Southern magnolia. Sweet bay grows from Massachusetts to Florida in coastal freshwater wetland areas as an understory tree. The tree can be single- or multi-stemmed. Sweet bay is a stunning addition to the woodland garden with an open form, allowing a variety of part-shade loving flora to grow beneath the airy canopy. The leaves are a larval food for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Almost immediately after planting we began to notice the swallowtails gliding from the sunny borders of the front dooryard, where an abundance of nectar-rich flowers are planted specifically to attract butterflies, around to the shady border in the rear yard where our sweet bay is located.

Our garden is continually evolving and part of our garden has given way to a limited version of a woodland garden, for the shady canopy created by the ever-growing ceiling of foliage of our neighbor’s trees has increasingly defined our landscape. We sited our Magnolia virginiana in our diminutive shaded woodland border where we can observe the tree from the kitchen window while standing at the kitchen sink. Gazing upon the tree bending and swaying gracefully in the wind, displaying its shifting bi-color leaves, provides a pleasant view when tending daily chores and the dreamy fragrance emitted from freshly opened blossoms make the chores all that less tiresome.

Excerpt from “Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!” Notes from a Gloucester Garden (David R. Godine Publisher), written and illustrated by Kim Smith.