Attracting Swallowtails to Your Garden

A Blog Story About Nature in Our DuPage Forest Preserves

Attracting Swallowtails to Your Garden

Posted by Abby Dean | 7/22/20 1:54 PM

Swallowtail butterflies are some of the largest, showiest butterflies found in Illinois. A visit from one in your garden is always a welcome delight.

If you’d like to attract swallowtails to your garden, the two most important factors to consider are providing host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for adults.

Host plants are specific plants that butterflies lay their eggs on. Once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars feed on these plants until they pupate into their adult form as a butterfly.

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Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) butterfly (above) and caterpillar (below). Caterpillar photo by Jay Ondreicka via Shutterstock

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After the caterpillars have metamorphosed into butterflies, they feed on the nectar of various blooming flowers using their proboscis, a long tube they keep coiled up like a hose when they’re not feeding.

To ensure visits from swallowtails to your garden, provide a mix of both host plants and nectar plants.

Below you will find some suggested host plants and nectar plants for three species of swallowtails found in DuPage County.

Swallowtail Butterfly Species Caterpillar Host Plant Species Nectar Plant Species
Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) - Black cherry tree (Prunus serotina)
- Tulip poplar tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
- American basswood tree (Tilia Americana)
- Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
- Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
- Joe pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum)
Black swallowtail
(Papilio polyxenes)
- Golden alexander (Zizia aurea)
- Parsley
- Dill
- Fennel
- Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Pipevine swallowtail
(Battus philenor)
-Pipevine (Aristolochia durior)
-Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria)
-Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea)
- Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
- Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
-Phlox

As you can see from the chart above, there are many options to consider when choosing plants to attract swallowtails to your yard.

Before making your selections, be sure to check the sunlight availability and moisture levels of the areas where you would like to plant and choose plants that match these conditions, as well as the available space you have, especially if you are considering planting a tree.

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Black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterfly on dill (above) and caterpillar (below)

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All plants are native to Illinois, with the exception of the garden herbs parsley, dill and fennel. It’s amazing what the addition of a few native plant species to your yard can do to attract butterflies and pollinators. Remember, “If you build it, they will come.”

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Pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) butterfly (above) and caterpillar (below).

pipevine-swallowtail-caterpillar

 

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Pipevine swallowtail

 

Topics: Insider, Plants, Wildlife, Nature, native plant, Native Plant Sale

Written by Abby Dean

Abby Dean is a naturalist at the District's Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center in Oak Brook. She enjoys teaching about ecology, zoology, botany, biology and geology. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide by the National Association for Interpretation. She earned a B.S. in outdoor recreation and resource management.