Anise Swallowtail Season


On Aug 6th, Dionne Dettmer, Doug Allshouse, and I discovered this wonderful example of Anise Swallowtail butterflies using a native host plant, Coast Angelica (Angelica hendersonii), which is sold at our Mission Blue Nursery. Anise Swallowtails hosts on plants in the Carrot Family (Apiaceae), and have adapted to the invasive Mediterranean fennel plant you see everywhere. Note that there were at least 10 on this one angelica plant. How many can you find in just this photo?

A week later, I was out there again, seed collecting and saw that they had gotten really big and plump. So cute, in fact, that I had to pet it, which it did not approve of, and let me know by surprising me with these bright orange antennae! I relented, and in order to resist petting them, moved on to collect seeds from the lovely CA Horkelia several paces away.


While stooping down, I was very surprised to see that one of these caterpillars had preceded me, and was hanging off of this stem, quite motionless. I wondered if it was getting ready to form a chrysalis?




About half an hour later, I decided to go back and check on it before leaving, and here's what I found! Notice how it has one strong string looped around its back to hold itself up, like a hammock. It was still wriggling around a little bit.




The following Saturday, I went back and found it like this, with a brightly colored underside. It will eventually emerge to look like this exquisite relative below, who visited our nursery last month.

Apparently it goes from that hanging caterpillar stage to pupae in just 10 minutes! Had I only known. It takes at least 2-3 weeks, or more for it to emerge, so I'll keep checking, and see if I get lucky enough to see more.


Check out this nice webpage with an overview of its lifecycle, and if you have more time, I loved reading more about each stage - especially how it makes its sling, and emerges into a chrysalis.

   — Iris Clearwater, Stewardship Coordinator