Beautiful Butterfly to Spot Twice a Year

Sometimes it is nice to blog about a thing of beauty rather than a Nashville Pest Control issue. The Black Swallowtail Butterfly is just that; a beautiful flying insect that can be observed here in Nashville, Tennessee. Although there larvae eats out of your herb and vegetable garden, they do not produce enough numbers to be considered a pest. Rather the insect considered in this week’s blog is a thing of beauty and has a number of interesting characteristics.

Black Swallowtail Butterflies begin their life as an egg laid on leaves or flowers near host plants for a food source. These eggs hatch in five to 10 days and begin the growth process from egg to caterpillar to Butterfly. The early stages of caterpillar actually use camouflage to protect it from predators, by looking like bird droppings. As the caterpillar matures it molts and grows in length to about two inches long. During the later larval stages the caterpillar turns green to blend in with the plants that it is feeding on, such as carrots, celery, parsley and fennel. The larvae also have other defenses other than camouflage to protect it during this growth process. They have a horn on their head that emerges when threatened. Although this horn looks intimidating (similar to a snake’s tongue), it is not to stick the predator, instead it squirts out a horrible smelling chemical that drives away the potential threat. They also take in the toxins from the poisonous type of plants they eat so that they taste too bad to eat. As they enter the last stage of development, the caterpillar will attach itself to a plant stem with silk that it spins in order to hold it into a head up position. In this pupal stage it becomes a Chrysalis for about two to three weeks until it emerges as a beautiful Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

As adults, the Black Swallowtail Butterfly is rather large, with a wingspan of almost 3 ½”. It displays beautiful colors of black, blue, red, yellow and orange along with having a large intricate wing shape. As an adult, their main source of defense is by looking like another poisonous butterfly to scare off predators. The Black Swallowtail Butterfly does this by resting primarily in the wing up position to display the color patterns of another species (as their underneath wing pattern and colors are different than the top). They spend their days flying around fields and wetlands feeding on nectar and most importantly looking for a mate. The male is very territorial, as they stake claim to an area and will aggressively chase off other males to secure their mate. It is very important, as they only live about two weeks as the beautiful flying butterfly. The Black Swallowtail Butterfly has two generations per year, with one being the overwintering generation that emerges during spring. Then a second generation make appearance in late summer to early fall to mate and provide the generation that will overwinter for next spring.

If you want to attract these butterflies to your garden, plant Zinnias, Sage and Lantanas among your other flowers. This will attract the Black Swallowtail Butterfly to feed in your yard. They are a beautiful specimen, but only last a few weeks. So, take the opportunity to observe this twice a year opportunity.

As always, be on the lookout for other insects that are actually pests invading your home. If you experience any unwanted guests such as ants, mosquitoes, wasps, fleas, spiders or roaches make sure to call Certified Pest Control Nashville for a free quote to prevent pests all year. Our local family is here to provide superior service to protect your home and family.

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