Houzz Logo Print

Dilemma with Pipevine Swallowtails

Cathy Brouse
5 months ago

Ok, I'll start out saying that my daughter has brought in hundreds of PVS cats this year to raise in our enclosed back porch in clear containers that I've retrofitted with a long piece of screen on the top of each one so they can breathe. The first one to pupate did it about a week ago and many many more have followed suit. My daughter must have brought in at least 300 eggs and cats several weeks ago, maybe close to a month, I forget.

Here's the problem and we've had it happen before, which is why I'm concerned. Several years ago she had a lot of PVS then too, pretty much like this year. They did very well...hatched, ate and grew, pupated and eclosed. It did not take them long to start mating. Same day! The females headed straight over to the pipevines afterwards and laid eggs upon eggs. I don't remember how many she brought in on the porch for the second batch of the year that year, but she had so many that she ran out of leaves for them to eat. She ended up having to put some back outside to fend for themselves. Sadly, I'd guess that most of them died from starvation because there are just not enough pipevine leaves (Aristolochia macrophylla) here to feed everyone when there are probably at least a thousand cats eating. When you have a huge batch eating in round 1, it's nearly impossible to also keep round 2 fed till pupation.

We had enough leaves for round 1 this year, but I know that we will only have a fraction of the amount that all the cats will need that are produced from the butterflies that are now in pupae. So when these eclose probably starting this week or next, I have a horrible suspicion that a lot of them will want to mate and lay on the already-taxed pipevine. The leaves are so small this year too, so they don't feed as many as they normally would.

I teasingly said to dh that I might have to drive these swallowtails somewhere when they eclose, but he nixed that idea, which I can't blame him at the price of gas. I can't afford to be driving hundreds of PVS 10 or 20 miles down the road hoping that they will find someone else's pipevine to oviposit. It wouldn't be bad if all of them would come out all in the same day or even just a couple days, but this will most likely continue most days until the end of summer. I just don't know how to avoid the catastrophe that we had the other year when a lot starved from lack of leaves because there were just simply too many cats. I could maybe tell my daughter to just let them outside and the birds might be happy (oh, but I think that they are poisonous to birds if I remember right). Maybe they won't even eat them. Besides, I kind of don't like the idea of those beautiful cats being gobbled up by our yard birds. I didn't get into butterfly gardening to feed them to the birds, but I know it's nature. If anyone here can think of a solution, I'd love to hear it. Thanks for reading my long post.


Comments (4)

    Hoppy Design & Build
    Average rating: 5 out of 5 stars9 Reviews
    Northern VA Award-Winning Deck ,Patio, & Landscape Design Build Firm