Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Much like monarchs that feed on milkweed which gives them protection from predation, this species also feeds on toxic plants. In the case of pipevine swallowtails they feed on plants in the Aristolochia family which are pipevines, dutchman's pipe and birthworts. As they feed on the plant in the caterpillar stage, they take in the toxins of the plant making them unpalatable to would-be predators. Like monarchs they will be toxic in all stages of life from caterpillar to adult.
The adults nectar at a wide variety of plants including thistles, bergamot, lilac, azaleas, teasel, phlox, petunias, lantana, verbena, and butterfly bush to name but a few. If you want to attract these butterflies to your yard, first make sure you are in an area where they are known to occur, then plant the host plants. Host plants provide nutrition to the caterpillars and with most butterflies being plant specific in their needs, the female will be looking for suitable host plants to lay eggs on. Most any nectar plants will suffice to attract butterflies.
Many species of butterflies have adapted coloration similar to the Pipevine which affords them a certain amount of protection from predation. The dark phase of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, The Black Swallowtail, The Ozark Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Red-Spotted Purple and the Diana Fritillary all take advantage of the defense implemented by the pipevine.