|Young Polydamas larvae.|
It took a couple of years, but the Polydamas Swallowtails finally have discovered my Aristolochia littoralis, calico flower. What’s more, they are now very much a part of the butterfly populations that keep the airways busy around my garden.
Aristolochia is a genus of tropical vines with pretty heart-shaped leaves. Some of the species have flowers shaped like old-fashioned Dutch pipes, and often the many species are referred to as pipevines. The pipevine swallowtail, black with blue hind wings, is named for the more northern plant that is its larval host. The polydamas swallowtail also uses a pipevine, but different species.
Aristolochia littoralisis a prolific bloomer in early summer. A pouch is light green and the hood-like fused petals are kidney and white. It likes moisture and fertilizer. I grow mine in a large container in an effort to keep some control over it. The plant is on the list of invasive exotics in South Florida. It produces seed pods that split vertically into six sections when brown and ripe. The seeds may be carried on the wind, so snip off the pods while they’re still green as another safety measure to prevent its ecape.
|Trying to pupate.|
The Polydamas Swallowtail butterflies, Battus polydamas lucayus, are born in groups, and feed communally until they begin to grow large. When ready to pupate, the caterpillars – dark brown with orange tubercles – are impressively big and fat. Chrysalids are green to yellow.
|Adult Polydamas Swallowtail.|
The adults are without tails on the hind wings, but have a broad yellow band on the upper edges of the wings and red spots on the hindwings and body. Big butterflies, Polydamas Swallowtails are sometimes up to 5 inches across and are worthy visitors to the garden.