Anise swallowtail butterfly in the garden

And so it begins…. You may not know that my wonderful husband George is a vastly talented actor, when he’s not being an amazing gardener and naturalist. He often works at night, doing performances or taking part in improv murder mysteries.  That’s not an ad for him (well maybe a little), but an explanation why he’s often lucky enough to be out in the garden during the day when something wonderful happens.

Like today, when he saw an anise swallowtail butterfly swoop over the fennel and lay an egg. He didn’t get a photo of her, but here is my photo of one that we raised last year – I like to think it might be her, returning to leave her babies.

Swallowtail on butterfly bush

He found the egg, but left it there for me to find when I got home. We really had to search, the wind had blown the fennel fronds around and it was hidden. But finally he saw the tiny jewel.

Anise swallowtail butterfly egg

This is an extreme closeup, it’s the size of the head of a pin!

Anise swallowtail butterfly egg - closeupWe brought it inside so it won’t fall prey to the weather or another menace. We’ll  feed the caterpillar and protect the chrysalis until the butterfly emerges, and then we’ll release it, to start the cycle over. If you haven’t yet seen my photos of the life cycle of the anise swallowtail butterfly, and of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, click here to get to my smugmug photo gallery.  Pull down and click on the links for the two sets of photographs.

Oh, and a plea – if you have fennel in your yard, please please don’t cut it down until the fall. If you’re in the El Cerrito area and you must cut it, contact us and we’ll rescue the eggs and caterpillars that are sure to be hiding in it.

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3 comments on “Anise swallowtail butterfly in the garden

  1. Jane says:

    Fantastic photos!!

  2. Lisa says:

    That’s awesome. I’ve tried the same thing myself, with mixed success. Do you have insight into why some butterflies pupate, but never hatch?

    • Heidi Rand says:

      Hi Lisa, We have about 30 anise swallowtail chrysalises that are still hanging out, waiting to emerge. Some of them have been around for a few years! You can tell they’re alive by very gently holding them in your fingers- there’s a slight movement. George says that he thinks it’s a survival mechanism, that some will be born quickly, but some will emerge later in case there’s a lack of food or water. But he’s not positive whether that has been scientifically proven. And it doesn’t happen with all butterflies – monarchs will always emerge on a very standard schedule. If they don’t hatch it’s because they didn’t survive, which happens once in awhile.

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