(Editor's note: This post first appeared on the homepage) Nina M. Zitani, 14 February; updated 26 June 2013
Black swallowtail butterfly, "Papilio polyxenes", June 2011, London, ON
(Photo: N. Zitani and Greg Thorn)
When was the last time you saw a black swallowtail butterfly in your garden? (When was the last time you saw a black swallowtail butterfly anywhere?). The image above features this stunning native butterfly from our biodiversity garden in late spring 2011. In the lower right corner of the image you can see one of the distinct black-centered, orange eye-spots that are characteristic of the hind wings of black swallowtails. This species is considered common, yet we have seen only two or three in the four years we have been growing our biodiversity garden. Their caterpillars feed mainly on the leaves of species in the carrot, or parsley family (family Apiaceae). They are one of the few native North American butterflies whose caterpillars successfully feed on non-native plant species, such as the invasive and noxious Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota). As development of our lands increases, habitat for butterflies and other wildlife decreases. Can we depend on our governments to protect enough land to provide sufficient habitat for our native wildlife? Think about the idea of providing butterfly habitat in your own back yard. This spring, plant Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), a species in the carrot family that is native to southern Ontario, and a food source for the black swallowtail caterpillar. You could have this gorgeous butterfly in your garden this year!