Thursday, September 22, 2016

Butterfly Garden Hosting Pipevine Swallowtails

Pipevine Swallowtail nursery series by Kathy Nance
We had a little excitement in the Butterfly Garden at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge a couple of weeks when ago when one of the garden work volunteers observed a Pipevine Swallowtail on the Woolly Dutchman's pipe growing in the garden. After a careful check, she found eggs on the plant.  The following week she found tiny caterpillars, see photo above,  and later, we took the photos (below) of the rapidly growing caterpillars.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on 9-17-2016, above and on 9-21-2016, below,  by Sue Malnory

In our go-to butterfly guide, Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America, we learned that the Pipevine Swallowtail is the second most familiar dark swallowtail, next to the Black.  The pipevine plant, similar to the function milkweed provides the monarch,  makes the adult butterfly poisonous, or at least bad tasting,  and protects from predators.  Also similar to the Monarch, the Pipevine has mimics, including the Spicebush and the  female Black and female Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and Red-spotted Purple, in our area.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly by Joe Blackburn
The life cycle for this butterfly, from Butterflies and Moths of North America: "Adult males patrol likely habitat in search of receptive females. Females lay batches of eggs on underside of host plant leaves. Caterpillars feed in small groups when young but become solitary when older. Wintering is by the chrysalis."
"This butterfly can be found in  a wide variety of open habitats, open woodland, and woodland edges."

Kaufman states that their flight is rapid and they usually continue to flutter their wings even when perched.

The host vine, officially Aristolochia tomentosa Sims, is also known as Common Dutchman's pipe, and is native throughout  the southern states, several midwest states, and New England, according to Lady Bird's Native Plant Database.  As the vine likes some shade, it is planted near the small pergola in our garden and is starting to comingle with the coral honeysuckle. it should go over the top of the pergola someday, as the expected size is up to 100'!!  We have not seen it bloom yet as it seemed to get off to a slow start this spring.  The expected bloom time is March - May, and the bloom color may be yellow, purple or green, but is not listed as a nectar source for the Pipevine Swallowtail.

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