J.J. Cardinal's Wild Bird & Nature Store
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Birding leads to butterflying!
self portrait - circa 1996


Dear Friends:
I know this is off topic but many of you also enjoy watching and identifying butterflies. Last summer was the first year I saw a giant swallowtail, and it was on my own property. I saw the first giant of the season today and like last year I caught the female as she was depositing her eggs on the upper surface of prickly ash; prickly ash is their “host” plant in Michigan. 

giant swallowtail

In southern states citrus trees are preferred making them pests for commercial orchard owners. The eggs are about the size of a pin head (or 1/16" in diameter), and when dry turn to a burnt orange color (see below). This egg is two hours old, and the orange coloration is a type of glue to secure the egg to the upper surface of the leaf. I thought it was curious they were being laid on the top of the leaf but then I learned about the appearance of the caterpillar and it all made perfect sense: the caterpillars look like bird droppings and that is where bird droppings would be, not on the underside of the leaf. I do not know of any predator that would go after bird droppings. Great camouflage.

giant swallowtail egg (enlarged)

(Note: Image above taken with Nikon Coolpix 950 while being hand-held to a Nikon 20X Field (micro) Scope.)

I need to look back on last years notes to see just how long it takes for the eggs to hatch. I collected three today and plan to look for more tomorrow. Last year I harvested 61 and they all made it to chrysalis. Many I gave away as to rear that many at once along with all the other lepidoptera I raise in the summer would be impossible. If you would like to raise a giant swallowtail, I would be happy to share them with local residents provided I am successful finding as many eggs this year as last. You will need to have access to prickly ash (leaves) as a food source. Come see me at the store; I will provide you with rearing information, too. Captive rearing usually has a sixty to eighty percent success rate; in-the-wild less than one percent of lepidoptera survive into adulthood.
      Louise Dawson

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J.J. Cardinal's Wild Bird & Nature Store ®
12830 S. Saginaw Street, Grand Blanc, Michigan   810-695-8733
originally posted 6/5/02 illustrations, text & fun © LAD, Inc. 2003
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