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Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Eastern Black Swallowtail
Habitat: Meadows, old fields, roadsides, pastures, disturbed sites, and gardens Garden Abundance: High Wingspan: 3.0 to 5.0 in Larval Host Plants: Wild and cultivated members of the carrot family (Apiaceae) including Queen Anne's lace and carrots (D. carota var. sativa), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), dill (Anethum graveolens) and parsley (Petroselenium crispum) Favorite Adult Nectar Sources: Milkweeds such as common milkweed (Asclepias syrica), butterflyweed (A. tuberosa), and scarlet milkweed (A. curassavica), garden phlox Phlox paniculata), thistles (Circium spp.), and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

The eastern black swallowtail is one of the most commonly encountered garden butterflies. It is at home in open fields, meadows, vacant lots, cultivated farmland, backyards and along roadsides. The increased human population has brought about an increase in the cultivated and native plants that the larvae of the eastern black swallowtail depend on, thus making this an extremely adaptable and abundant suburban butterfly. Black swallowtails occur throughout almost all of North America.

Males black swallowtails are agile and strong fliers. They often are observed dashing along at a rapid clip only a few feet above the ground. Like other patrolling butterfly species, black swallowtails are drawn to land prominences such as hilltops were they actively search out receptive females.

Very young larvae are patterned like bird droppings. Older caterpillars are very conspicuous: lime green with each segment crossed by a prominent black band. They are aptly named “parsley worms”, and feed on herbaceous plants in the carrot family (Apiaceae).

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