Giant Swallowtail Butterflies and Your Citrus Trees: They were at it again this year

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Giant Swallowtail Butterflies and Your Citrus Trees

By wildflowers
June 19, 2012

It started out as a usual morning as I hand watered the front garden; then I noticed what looked like bird droppings all over one of the lime trees.

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Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Charter ATP Member Birds Bee Lover Organic Gardener Seed Starter
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wildflowers
Jun 3, 2013 7:50 AM CST
Laying their eggs, then the caterpillars (looking like little bird poops) on the leaves and stems of the citrus trees. A couple of them made their way to the house again, where they transformed into chrysalis.

Thumb of 2013-06-03/wildflowers/636b4d Thumb of 2013-06-03/wildflowers/810cae

May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Beverly
Colima, Mexico (Zone 11a)
Butterflies Organic Gardener Tropicals Native Plants and Wildflowers Seed Starter
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vitrsna
Feb 16, 2015 1:06 PM CST
Hurray! Hi Christine...I appreciated your article about the Giant Swallowtails and especially that you noted they did not harm the citrus trees. Hopefully that will bring some awareness to people who commonly use insecticides to eliminate the larva.

These butterflies are also common visitors to my garden. When i had both a Lime tree and a Rue plant, i noticed that the Swallowtails showed a preference to lay eggs on the Rue and only used the Lime tree when there was no more space on the Rue. I no longer have the Lime tree but i increased the plants of Rue. The Swallowtails became heavily predated when the wasps discovered the Rue. Last year i tried an experiment. I grew Choisya ternata (which is not common in my area, although native to Mexico). I would see the wasps hovering around the Rue but never did they take a second look at the Choisya and i experienced 4 generations of peaceful and safe Giant Swallowtail caterpillers that grew to butterflyhood. I thought it was only a matter of time, but i was hopeful. I had grown only one Choisya t. and at the end of the rainy season, the Choisya dropped dead. I moved the existing caterpillars to a Rue plant nicely hidden in the patio area where they would have enough food to mature into pupahood. I think the Choisya t. did not have good enough drainage to survive our rainy season. Now i am starting new Choisya t. plants that i hope will survive in a place where there is better drainage. What charming caterpillars they are and such beautiful butterflies. I love having them in the garden.
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Charter ATP Member Birds Bee Lover Organic Gardener Seed Starter
Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower
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wildflowers
Feb 17, 2015 9:17 AM CST
Hi Beverly! I'm so glad you found my article and enjoyed reading about the Giant Swallowtail butterflies!

When I wrote about these beautiful butterflies, I wanted to make the point that they did not harm my citrus trees. They really aren't aggressive eaters, like some larvae can be. I've seen some nibble on the same leaf for their entire life as a caterpillar! Over the years of observing them, they have never caused damage to any of my citrus trees! And, like you, I'm always hoping people will reconsider the use of chemicals!

Thank you for telling your experience with them. Choisya ternata looks like a plant I would like to learn more about! Thumbs up Best wishes with growing it again!

Thanks again for your comments. Smiling
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Brenden Reinhart
Flushing Michigan (Zone 6b)
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bhart90
Aug 9, 2016 7:03 PM CST
vitrsna said: Hurray! Hi Christine...I appreciated your article about the Giant Swallowtails and especially that you noted they did not harm the citrus trees. Hopefully that will bring some awareness to people who commonly use insecticides to eliminate the larva.

These butterflies are also common visitors to my garden. When i had both a Lime tree and a Rue plant, i noticed that the Swallowtails showed a preference to lay eggs on the Rue and only used the Lime tree when there was no more space on the Rue. I no longer have the Lime tree but i increased the plants of Rue. The Swallowtails became heavily predated when the wasps discovered the Rue. Last year i tried an experiment. I grew Choisya ternata (which is not common in my area, although native to Mexico). I would see the wasps hovering around the Rue but never did they take a second look at the Choisya and i experienced 4 generations of peaceful and safe Giant Swallowtail caterpillers that grew to butterflyhood. I thought it was only a matter of time, but i was hopeful. I had grown only one Choisya t. and at the end of the rainy season, the Choisya dropped dead. I moved the existing caterpillars to a Rue plant nicely hidden in the patio area where they would have enough food to mature into pupahood. I think the Choisya t. did not have good enough drainage to survive our rainy season. Now i am starting new Choisya t. plants that i hope will survive in a place where there is better drainage. What charming caterpillars they are and such beautiful butterflies. I love having them in the garden.


Curious, why did you plant Choisya ternata, did you know that would help repel predators?
Brenden
Name: Carol
Scottsdale, AZ
Azspalady
Apr 23, 2017 7:52 PM CST
I found "bird droppings" on my kumquat tree and went searching for what they might be. Your post popped up immediately and I was so happy to find photos to confirm my suspicions. Especially thrilled to know they are not particularly destructive or damaging to my tree. I counted 7 caterpillars and am now anxiously waiting for the next stages to come. Thanks for the educational post!
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Charter ATP Member Birds Bee Lover Organic Gardener Seed Starter
Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower
Image
wildflowers
Apr 24, 2017 7:14 AM CST
Welcome! Hi Carol,

Lucky you! That's great you found 7 caterpillars! It will be exciting to watch them grow. I always look forward to seeing them in the citrus trees. Smiling

May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

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