Plant It and They Will Come

Last week I saw an unfamiliar butterfly spending a lot of time weaving and dipping in and out around a cluster of containerized citrus on my back deck. Out of curiosity, I looked up the ID. It was very distinctly a Mammoth Swallowtail, a very nice looking butterfly that I enjoyed watching.

I looked up it’s food sources. High on the list of its nectar providers is bougainvillea, which happens to be flowering right behind the citrus. Unfortunately, the preferred food source for the caterpillars is citrus. I had unknowingly created a little unsprayed Eden for the Mammoth Swallowtail’s life-cycle.

Unfortunately, although a normal sized citrus tree has enough canopy to feed the caterpillars without harming its productivity, my small container grown trees would be greatly harmed by their feeding. They are known as Red Dogs. I examined each tree daily for several days and removed the eggs as I found them. It would have been easier if they were laid as a cluster instead of singly.

In total, I found 6 eggs. That seems like a low number of eggs for an insect. So, I’m hoping that there are other wild type host plants in the area where the majority of the eggs were laid, because it is rather impressive butterfly.

I thought it was interesting that the citrus, which is considered relatively pest free here, along with bougainvillea, have attracted at least one insect which I haven’t seen here before.

Muddy, I am not familiar with the Mammoth Swallowtail. Do you maybe mean the Giant Swallowtail? And their caterpillars are referred to as Orange Dogs? We have lots of those in S. California. And the Western Tiger Swallowtail as well. Those, mixed with tons of Monarchs, Sulphurs and Gulf Fritallaries fill my yard. I have to pick the Orange Dogs off my young citrus, and put them on my mature citrus trees. They can do a lot of damage in a very short timeframe. And, here in S. California, the Swallowtails are actually considered a pest by commercial citrus growers. But I love them in my yard, and I just “rehome” the caterpillars to older, more mature citrus trees.

That’s it, Patty, an Eastern Giant Swallowtail. It’s been a week since I looked it up. My brain must have gone into thesaurus mode in the interval and replaced ‘Giant’ with ‘Mammoth’. That doesn’t work well with names. :smile:

Unfortunately, there are no large citrus nearby here that I could move the eggs to. It will probably be several years before I grow any of mine large enough to feel it’s worth the risk to trial them outdoors. When it gets to that point, I’ll willing share some foliage. Caterpillars are like teens; they eat an enormous amount compared to their size. :smile:

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