Anise Swallowtail Butterfly bonanza

It’s a banner year for anise swallowtail butterflies, at least in our garden! A few weeks ago we saw a butterfly fluttering around the fennel plant in the back garden, and sure enough we found 13 eggs. We brought them all in and they’ve started to emerge.

Anise swallowtail caterpillar newly emerged from its chrysalis

We’ve also had some chrysalises incubating for a year or more, and some of them finally decided to emerge as well. Three of the butterflies came out yesterday and four today.

Anise swallowtail butterfly newly emergedWe check the fennel periodically for eggs and babies, and usually find them when they’re small, but this caterpillar eluded us until he had gotten quite large.

Anise swallowtail caterpillar on fennelThis is an extreme closeup, he’s actually a bit over an inch long. Anise swallowtail butterflies, in our area, mostly use fennel for their larval host. It’s plentiful and grows much more easily than the native host, yampah. The problem is that people often cut it down because it gets so large and rangy. Now that you know the beautiful butterflies that rely on the plant, please don’t cut it down until the end of the summer! Want to learn how to raise the butterflies yourself? Drop me an email and I’ll explain how-  HeidiRand@gmail.com

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.