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Pipevine Swallowtail Eggs and Emerging Zebra Swallowtail!

14 years ago

I've been releasing lots of pipevine swallowtails this spring, and today I saw a female fluttering around the pipevines that grow on the picket fence around my house - she didn't lay any eggs. Then I went to the garden to finish planting my tomatoes and pepper plants, and there were two females fluttering around the biggest group of vines there - this group is full of vigorous new growth. I watched as they simultaneously laid a cluster of eggs each.

Here's one cluster -

And here's the cluster from the other female -

If anybody gets plenty of pipevine swallowtail egg clusters this year, I'd like to swap some clusters with you. I've been worried that my pipevine swallowtails are inbreeding. In may not matter with butterflies if they "marry" their own sister/brother - does anybody know if it does?

Anyway, at least I'll have pipevine swallowtails to raise - they're my favorites!

The zebra swallowtail from the one remaining chrysalis is showing through. You can see oak pollen on it - the oak trees by my house are really giving my allergies a workout!

I'd sure like to get some ZST eggs!!


Comments (26)

  • 14 years ago

    How do you do that!? Congradulations!
    See, things are looking up already.
    It will be another fine and wonderful butterfly season.

  • 14 years ago

    Funny Sherry I was wondering the same thing about inbreeding, never have seen any mention of it when reading about captive breeding.
    Don't know if you read my posts but I had some ZLW and julias breed while we awaited better weather. So the pupae I have now are siblings. If they inbreed?
    Anyway it is interesting to ponder, maybe someone will have $.02 on this.
    Great to hear about all the activity! Wish I had ZST and PVs!
    p.s. Which pipevine is that in the pics?

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  • 14 years ago

    Kelly, it's A. tomentosa. These two egg clusters were laid on my oldest, biggest vines - I've got some new ones planted that are just now getting started.
    I remember reading your posts, so I know I'm not the only one who wonders about inbreeding in butterflies. I've never seen any articles about it, so I guess it's probably something people haven't cared enough about to study.
    Ronkw, I hope I start seeing palamedes, spicebush and more tiger swallowtails - all the logging around here has got to make them scarce this year, since their host plants got mowed down, or, in the case of wild black cherry, they may have been harvested for their beautiful wood.

  • 14 years ago

    I am so jealous! I have always wanted pipevine swallowtails. I have not had success with the snakeroot. I do have one A.tomentosa. This is the third summer that I have had it. I have never had one egg.I am going to try to get more!

  • 14 years ago

    Hmmm, thought provoking question, MissSherry. But then, haven't they been doing it for years? If the butterflies tend to stay in a specific area because of host plant availability, how would one really control it? If we exchange eggs from another region, how do we know that we are not inviting problems, e.g., a particular population may have developed resistance to certain issues that the population they are infiltrating have not? On the other hand, biodiversity may be beneficial, too, and I wish there were more studies on it.

    I just love those PVS eggs! So unique!


  • 14 years ago

    You're probably right, Susan - I should probably leave well enough alone! :)

  • 14 years ago

    The second ZST emerged today. I got a picture - I'll post the picture of today's butterfly first, then a picture of the one from about a week ago. Can you see any difference?
    It looks to me like the one today has much more delineated, circular red spots than the one from last week, whose red spots are somewhat merged. In my Minno&Minno Florida Butterfly Gardening book, they show a spring male with merged red spots and a female with distinct ones, plus their spring female has slightly more black than their male. That would agree with my "diagnosis" that the one from last week was a male, and today's was a female.
    'Just supposing here, though.

  • 14 years ago

    Congratulations Miss Sherry! I know how hard you worked for that zebra. I have been reading about host preferences and phenotypes in butterflies. Some species that use different host types have specific regional preferences that are genetic. One example of this is the Tiger, who prefers Sweet bay magnolia in the south. This does not mean they wont use other hosts but there is a genetic preference. These are adaptations to the local environment. I don't know how this applies to other species, especially with the zebra that has one host plant. I don't know if there are other issues with eclosure times and winter diapauses.

    I will have to look at inbreeding. This is a question I wonder about. I am sure Edith would probably have an answer as far as breeders go.


  • 14 years ago

    Maybe Edith will know, Elisabeth.
    Today's been a big day for releasing butterflies! In addition to today's zebra, I released three more pipevine swallowtails, a luna moth emerged (another male) and a giant swallowtail emerged late this afternoon - the GST doesn't seem ready to go today, so I'll wait until tomorrow to release him.
    I also saw a female PVS laying another cluster on the big vines, not too far from where I found another new cluster, plus there was a small, new cluster (5 eggs) on a small vine inside the picket fence around my house. Pipevine swallowtails always lay their eggs over a period of days, usually lasting over a week. I've already brought the small cluster of eggs in to raise myself, because sometimes my new puppy gets in the raised bed where the vine is growing - I didn't want her to trample the eggs, which are low on the vine.
    I'll release the luna moth tonight - he's SO beautiful - I just LOVE luna moths!

  • 14 years ago

    More pictures please!!!!

  • 14 years ago

    Okay, I took a picture of the luna moth - it's not very good, but you can still see what a beauty he is -
    I'll take a picture of the giant swallowtail tomorrow when the light's better.
    Have you noticed how hairy zebra swallowtails are? They remind me of long-tailed skippers in that respect.

  • 14 years ago

    Those are all beautiful pictures! I'm so glad that both of your Zebra Swallowtails made it after all the trials and tribulations you had with them. I sure hope that you have better luck with them this year. I'm planting paw paw trees this year but don't expect to see ZSTs for awhile yet, as in years. I've never seen one, and maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part that I'll even be able to get them here since the closest they've been reported to me is several counties from here. For sure I won't be able to get eggs this year because I'll have the trees shaded and don't think the butterflies will be able to get in to the trees to lay eggs.

    I sure like the sight of those Pipevine Swallowtail eggs! I hope I get those butterflies here again this year. I released 47 PVSTs last year and have 24 in pupas yet waiting to eclose. Our weather has been in the high 80's, really unusual for early April, and I'm surprised that they didn't eclose yet, but I suppose it's for the best since not too much is blooming here yet except daffodils. I don't have any very early blooming butterfly type plants.

    I also like your Luna picture. I've never raised them and would have to read back over the forum before I'd attempt it because I really don't know what I'm doing in that respect...and a lot of others. lol I enjoyed looking at all of the butterfly pictures you posted.


  • 14 years ago

    Cathy, we've been in the 80s too, until a cold front moved in last night. Today was low 60s, which was really much nicer for working in the yard.

    I think I'm gonna have to invest in a couple of spring blooming shrubs, or some Dianthus. I know Sandy grows these for early nectar. I've also heard that Weigelas are also good for early nectaring butterflies and hummers, too.

    Right now I've been relying on the weeds - henbit, dandelions, violets, which look like a carpet right now in the yard. I did put out a plate of damp sand today for butterflies that like to get their minerals that way.

    Last year, the early Monarchs nectared all over the dandelions, so I will NOT be getting rid of these for awhile, LOL!

    I purchased a new Lantana 'Pink Caprice' that I absolutely love! I hope the butterflies love it as much.

    I would love to have PVS this year and I hope they find my Pipevine. I don't know why I haven't seen them for the last 2 years.

    Congrats on those gorgeous ZSTs, MissSherry. They sure are gorgeous. I hope Sandy eventually gets some in Eastern Oklahoma. She's more likely to see them than I am.


    Here is a link that might be useful: {{gwi:461987}}

  • 14 years ago

    Susan, That's true...I kind of forgot about the weeds that are around that the butterflies can nectar on like the dandelion and violets. They're not blooming yet but it won't be too long anymore.

    I love dianthus. I did have some here two different times and they all died out. I loved their smell and how pretty they were. That 'Pink Caprice' Lantana is really pretty! I tried two different kinds that I bought at Lowe's (two different years) and didn't see even one butterfly go on them at all, so I gave up on that plant. It's not winter hardy up here anyway. I know lantana works well in the south though judging from comments from various people on the forum.

    I really hope that you can get some PVS this year! Yeah, isn't that funny how some years certain butterflies show up and others they do a disappearing act. Right now I keep watching the pussytoes, artemisia, and pearly everlasting in anticipation of the American Ladies getting here eventually and laying eggs for the fourth year in a row. I don't know how companies manage to sell seeds from that plant if they get ALs because the cats love the flowers so much that they never make it to seedhood here. When they're here I can expect to go out in the evenings and see lots of them up on the seed stalks making short order of the flowers. I don't mind though, whatever they want. :)

  • 14 years ago

    Much thanks Sherry!!! We are about a month or two behind you so it is nice to see those pictures.

    I guess I have noticed that their backs are hairy but I never really thought about it. I wonder if the spring ones are more hairy. The ones that get me are mourning cloaks. They are extremely hairy. More so than skippers. They have what almost looks like little feathers coming off their bodies.

    Zebras can find paw paws anywhere. My first paw paws were little sticks sitting on my patio, which is on the north side of my house. A female tried to lay eggs on them. I moved them to the back yard late in the summer. The next spring another female was trying to lay on them even though they had all of four leaves. If you mean shaded and they are completely covered you could try another method. The gentleman here who has a paw paw farm uses a cardboard box to shade his young trees. He keeps the top of the box open. I haven't shaded my young trees and yes they have some sun scald but they haven't died. They are planted in almost full sun. You do have to watch them. I had to laugh because the hort staff at the arboretum bought some young trees and planted them in full shade. Then the slugs stripped them. So, you can't win. Yes, slugs love young paw paw leaves!

    Spring is here! Sort of...


  • 14 years ago

    Wow, that's a surprise to me, Elisabeth, about slugs loving Pawpaw. I have little ones, and I've never had a slug on mine. Maybe it's because they prefer the succulent foliage of my Hostas, Petasites, and other things in the yard, LOL!

    Cathy, the butterflies (and hummers) are all over my big Lantana 'Miss Huff' every year. It could be a regional thing, though. This one has been very hardy for me in my zone 7a, and might overwinter with good mulching in your zone. But, it is a thug! It gets about 4-5' tall and 6' wide. It is full of butterflies all season long. We'll see about the Pink Caprice. Not as hardy as Miss Huff and I don't yet know if the butterflies will like it; just know that I do!

    I would love to see Zebras here, but doubt I will. I think eventually they will extend their range, but probably not in my lifetime.


  • 14 years ago

    Cathy, lunas are the easiest of the big moths to raise, you about can't go wrong with them. They use sweet gum, which is extremely common and vigorous here, almost always has new growth on it, so it's easy to keep them in good food. I've still got a lot of pipevine chrysalides, even though I've released many already - I had a lot of cats in late fall last year. I hope to get ZST eggs again this year, so I can make it right! :)

    It rained and turned colder last night here, too, Susan, but it's only supposed to go down to the mid-40's at night for the next few nights, with high temps in the 70's. I love the way those cold fronts come through in spring without dropping the temps to plant killing levels - cool, but not deadly! I sure do like your pink lantana - it reminds me of the old 'ham & eggs' lantana, which is very cold hardy and very vigorous. It's the mother plant to Sonset, which is what I have, and there is a section of my huge plant that blooms pink and yellow, reverting back to the original. So Sonset isn't a totally "stable sport", as they say. The butterflies love that lantana!

    Spring is definitely here, Elisabeth. When I went out to check my rain gauge this morning, I heard my first wood thrush of the season - that's one of my favorite sounds, like a flute in the woods. I also heard a vireo yesterday, so the big spring migration is on!
    I'll try to get a picture of the giant swallowtail today - he does indeed look gigantic after releasing those zebra and pipevine swallowtails.

  • 14 years ago

    The giant swallowtail flew out of the cage in a hurry and landed on a flower cluster on the wild black cherry in front of the porch - I don't know if he nectared or just basked there. The brown thingies on the flowers are the things that fall off oak trees that hold pollen - I've been sneezing and blowing my nose all morning!
    I think this one is a male.

  • 14 years ago

    i dont think getting pvs from different areas would effect your local pvs.i think it would actually help the gene pool.i ordered 6 a.tomentosa from mailordernatives and i`m planning on planting them along a chain link fence.if i get too many eggs before my vines get established i will definitely send you some.

  • 14 years ago

    Yea!! I saw a palamedes swallowtail today!

  • 14 years ago

    "Funny Sherry I was wondering the same thing about inbreeding, never have seen any mention of it when reading about captive breeding."

    When I showed up here almost 7 years ago, I took some people to task about the way they were releasing large numbers of inbred giant silk moths. That went over like a lead weight so I have pretty much kept my mouth shut since then.

    Ladobe criticized one of our members about it last year but no one followed up on it. The quote was "Besides weakening the gene pool, forced inbreeding produces low egg viability, high malformation risk and so therefore high mortality. Not a good practice."

    One consequence of moth inbreeding helped cause a shift in USDA policy last month. The USDA no longer regulates interstate shipments of Bombyx mori. Those moths are so inbred they can no longer survive in the wild.

    I raise relatively large numbers (up to 400 of one type) of Saturniidae every year. I go to great lengths to try to make sure the wild males that my girls mate with are not the brothers or the male first cousins that I released. I also try to make sure my released males and females do not mate with each other. I do this by doing releases at least 10 miles (usually more) from my house and releasing the females and males at least 10 miles (usually more) away from each other. I used to mark my males to make sure they were not finding their way home but quit being that paranoid after years of never getting one back. I release at least 10 miles away because 7 miles seems to be the generally accepted maximum distance that a male Saturniidae can follow a female's pheromones. That said, I have seen a claim that male giant silk moths can follow female pheromones for "nearly 30" miles. YMMV

    I preface my next statement by saying I have no clue how this guy operates. There is a guy in Ohio that raises 3k-4k cecropias each year. I read that he has been raising them since '86. Something wiped out his cats in 2008 and he had to start over in 2009. I'm real curious if inbreeding affected his setup and I'd like to know what happens to all the moths he doesn't sell (IOW, do they get let go).

    As for inbreeding butterflies and affecting the gene pool, there is a lot of info/controversy on the net about it because of people raising butterflies for mass release at weddings. One related article I have posted before is linked at the end of this post.

    Last thought: I know of one inbred butterfly that has been studied a lot: monarchs on Hawaii. I believe around 20% of them are white now. My guess is they do alright because the favorable weather conditions don't put a lot of stress on them. They would probably have trouble with migrating to Mexico and surviving the winters there. Anyway, there is a lot of research out there about them.


    Here is a link that might be useful: All Aflutter

  • 14 years ago

    That's interesting information, KC! I'm sorry you got brushed off about your concerns concerning inbreeding seven years ago - you were right to be concerned, and I'm glad you've taken the precautions you've taken.
    It's unreal that anybody could raise 3,000-4,000 cecropias each year!! They're huge eaters - raising just a few at a time will keep you busy. I don't think those of us in the continental U.S. would have the inbreeding problems they have in Hawaii, an island, but we still need to try and mix up our populations. My lunas have come from the locals plus Bill Oehlke, a moth raiser on Long Island, N.Y., and a man who raised some in California, then sent them to me to release in their native habitat. My lunas all look GREAT!! The male that emerged today is huge and healthy looking.
    There has probably been some natural mixing with my pipevine swallowtails. Last year I went most of the summer without any adults or caterpillars - a female showed up in late summer and laid a lot of eggs, which is where all mine have come from this year. So these butterflies may or may not be related to the ones I've raised in years past. Just like a "stranger" turned up and laid eggs last year, another "stranger" could do the same and give my population a natural mix. Still, I'd like to swap stock with somebody - it certainly hasn't hurt that I've mixed up my big moths.

  • 14 years ago

    I imagine a lot of the folks here are like me, I only release one or two of a species occassionally, and figure the chances of them "finding each other" are no better than had they pupated in the yard and released themselves. So maybe that is why nobody really followed up on it.
    I recently had some julia that I KNEW were siblings (I only had one male and one female in a group that eclosed during the freeze), and they hatched and flew away one at a time over several days. So who knows if they find each other or not.
    I do wonder though about breeding facilities and butterfly houses/aviaries. Although I guess the ones in the aviaries will never be released in the wild so the strength/weakness of their line won't have any affect on the species as a whole. Anyway much to think about!
    I guess in the end all I can do is take care of the ones I have, and raise them with the best morals;) Or try.
    Happy gardening!

  • 14 years ago

    The pipevine swallowtail cats have grown slowly this cool spring, compared to their rate of growth in the hot summer, but that's normal. Quite a few of them look to be 5th/last instar and finally ready to pupate. I can't begin to count them, they're everywhere! My pipevines continue to colonize, making many new shoots every year, and the pipevine swallowtails keep using them all!
    Here's a few of them -
    I also saw a giant swallowtail flying rapidly through my garden, but, as far as I know, it didn't stop to lay any eggs, even though my orange tree is full of new growth, my rue plants are big, and the hops trees have got a good bit of new growth.
    There are lots of palamedes swallowtail cats all over my property - here's one -

  • 14 years ago

    That's exciting to see so many Pipevine cats! Your picture of the Palamedes cat is great! Looks a lot like some of the other Swallowtails at early instars.


  • 13 years ago

    I'm so excited to read your post that the Zebras will find the paw paws. I have never seen one around here. I'm on the West side of Cleveland in Amherst. I'm looking for Pipevine Butterflies too. I have 4 pipevine plants that I started from seed last summer. They are only 3' high at the most. We protect Monarch Cats in our home, then release when they become butterflies. We are on track for a great number this year! I have also planted Spicebush, PawPaw for the Zebra, and Rue(for the Giant Swltl) I need to get-Fennel or is it dill for the Black Swltl. I also need to get a wild cherry tree for the Red Spotted Purple. Had a butterfly party for my daughters GirlSct Troop on Thurs. they loved it. I sent them all home with a milkweed plant. They learned all about butterflies, esp the Monarchs. Just hoping to attract the ones you have been speaking of. If you have any advice, I'm all ears.
    Thanks, SarahAmherstOH