Some classics just never go out of style. Such is the case for the book “Butterflies and Moths: A Guide to the More Common American Species” by Robert T. Mitchell and Herbert S. Zim. Most field guides eventually go out of print and become unavailable over time as their information becomes outdated and new guides are produced. To my knowledge, this book has been in continuous print since it originally came out in 1964.
I have been a butterfly gardener for many years. Each year I try to add to existing gardens or take out gardens that don’t seem to be performing as well as I would like (when I say perform, I mean attracting butterflies). This year I wanted to do something new with an existing garden that over the past few years had just become overgrown, not only with weeds but with wildflowers and trees as well. This 13 foot by 13 foot garden had become unmanageable and with the exception of a butterfly bush and a wafer ash tree, nothing in it was attracting butterflies (the wafer ash was attracting giant swallowtails pretty regularly).
Welcome to part two of my caterpillar food plant series (the first of which was on Saturniidae moth food plants seen HERE). For this entry I am focusing on the five species of Swallowtail butterflies (family Papilionidae) from New England. This list does not include strays; only species that can be found in this area normally. The Papilionidae, numbering over 700 species worldwide, are among our largest and most spectacular of butterflies!
EASTERN BLACK SWALLOWTAIL – Papilio polyxenes asterius
Carrot (Daucus), dill (Anetheum), fennel (Foeniculum), parsley (Petroselinum), Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus), rue (Ruta).
Raising Lepidoptera has been a hobby that I have enjoyed ever since I was a kid. Though raising butterflies has always been fun, it is raising the giant silkmoths, family Saturniidae, that has been my favorite aspect of rearing. Thankfully I live in an area that includes a great representation of these amazing moths, even though their wild populations do seem to be dwindling with each passing year. What I present to you is a list of the most commonly used caterpillar foodplants for these moths representing nine species. This list is in no way meant to be complete and only through experimentation can new plants be added to this ever-growing list.
So, if you have never raised Saturniid larvae before, or even if you are a seasoned veteran, this list will hopefully be helpful in guaranteeing your success! Good luck and have fun!
THE LUNA MOTH – Actias luna
Aspen (Populus), Bayberry (Myrica), Beech (Fagus), Birch (Betula), Butternut (Juglans), Chestnut (Castanaea), Hickory (Carya), Hops (Humulus), Hornbeam (Carpinus), Maple (Acer), Oak (Quercus), Pecan (Carya), Sweetgum (Liquidambar), Sycamore (Platanus), Tulip Tree (Liriodendron), Walnut (Juglans).
Gardening, without a doubt, is one of the best hobbies out there, for many different reasons. First off, it gets you out into the fresh air and you truly get to interact with nature. It is relaxing and yet the payoff is amazing. Whether it is the resulting vegetables from your gardens, fruit from your trees or the gorgeous flowers that bloom, there is no better feeling of satisfaction than the one you get after growing something yourself. Everyone has their type of gardening preference; whether it is growing fruits and vegetables or just growing flowers. Mine is butterfly gardening. This will be a work-in-progress so check back often.
I am a huge fan of field guides and thankfully most of them out there are pretty good. In my last book review (seen HERE) I discussed my favorite of the guides, though it is one that is so large it is impractical to bring into the field with you. Thankfully, this one is much smaller, very user friendly and is perfect to have with you in the field. I must also say that I am quickly becoming a huge fan of Jeffrey Glassberg, who wrote this and many of the best guides available today.
I have had a lifelong fascination with lepidoptera, the study of butterflies and moths. Ever since I received a kit for Christmas for collecting them when I was seven, I have been hooked. As a child I have many great memories of being out with my net collecting various species of local butterflies. Then, at night, I would be out again checking out the local street lights seeing what moths were attracted and wondering why, if moths only flew at night, were they were so attracted to lights? As the years went on I started to notice a pattern. The places where I used to collect were no longer available as they had been renovated for new houses, shopping centers and condominiums. I also noticed something else…the numbers of wild species flying around were not there anymore! It was obvious that this habitat destruction was taking its toll. This was when my attitude towards butterflies and moths changed. Even as a child it was obvious we were hurting the environment.