Black Swallowtail on Monarda

Yesterday Judy and I went out to take pictures in the garden when I spotted a black swallowtail butterfly nectaring on the ‘Raspberry Wine’ Monarda (Monarda didyma).

Look! A butterfly!
Look! A butterfly!

The sighting was a notable event, given the scarcity of butterflies in the garden during the last couple of years. So Judy spent some time trying to capture it on film. She was a little hyperactive, so it wasn’t easy. UPDATE: The buttefly, I mean, not Judy. Sorry, Judy.

Upper wings of a black swallowtail. Also notice you can see the pistil and stamen sticking out of the Monarda.
Upper wings of a black swallowtail. Also notice you can see the pistil and stamen sticking out of the Monarda.

This was a female, which gives me hope there may be swallowtail eggs among the dill, fennel, and parsley plants in the Edibles and Cutting Bed. Black swallowtails use members of the parsley family as host plants for their caterpillars – they also like carrots, celery, and Queen Anne’s lace.

Underwing, plus a good view of the proboscis.
Underwing, plus a good view of the proboscis.

This individual looked a lot more robust than the last swallowtail we saw, in early June, which was nectaring on pansies in the back garden. Although today’s did seem to be missing one antenna.

Sharing nicely with a bumblebee.
Sharing nicely with a bumblebee.

Butterflies remain scarce in the garden this year, though there are definitely more than last year. I have also seen single monarchs, sulphurs and red admirals with some frequency, though never more than one at a time. We haven’t gotten any pictures this year, though.

There were lots of red admiral butterflies this weekend, and another species I couldn't identify.
Red Admiral, picture taken in 2012.

There is also a small light blue butterfly, which is often hovering about the New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus). I think this is a spring or summer azure. Again, no pictures yet. Plus there are usually skippers and cabbage whites around.

What butterflies are you seeing in your garden?

47 Comments on “Black Swallowtail on Monarda

  1. Beautiful butterfly and wonderful photos of it. It looks gorgeous on the Monarda. If I had taken that second photo I would frame it and put it on the wall or make greeting cards and send it to all my friends. Superb!

  2. Lovely pictures. We haven’t seen many butterflies yet this year. Our Monarda are only about a foot high, not ready to bloom yet.

    • A lot of growth gets packed into a short time during a North Dakota summer. Years ago I visited Bismarck quite regularly.

  3. Great photographs! Saw a black swallowtail this morning too–first of the year. That monarda is a nice, rich color.

  4. That is such an attractive butterfly and Judy’s photos are excellent! I have only ever seen an Old World Swallowtail once, as they are rare here, but I don’t think the black one can be found here. I have been seeing a lot of smaller butterflies and hummingbird hawk moths so far this month.

  5. Great shots! It is so hard to photograph butterflies. Hearing that some monarchs made it to Chicago is a relief. I didn’t see a single one pass through this spring.

    • Why can’t the butterflies sit still now and then? Sometimes you can catch them basking, but that hasn’t happened lately.

  6. Congratulations on the Black Swallowtail. I have barely seen them anywhere. In my yard, when I have been there, all I can recall for the most part are cabbage whites and a Red Admiral or two. Definitely a dearth of butterflies in general.

      • I was just out in the yard and a Mourning Cloak swept past me. I hope there are more butterflies and I’m just not seeing them. 🙂

  7. Great shots and thoughts!

    We share a love of flutterbyes. I plant both dill and parsley just for them and have a registered Monarch Waystation here. Monarchs are in fantastic decline, and even the swallowtails are slow to show this year. At least if they find my gardens, they are safe from all chemicals.

    Enjoying hummers this time of year. Do you plant Crocosmia? Bliss in the garden and hummer magnet…

    • Last year we had lots of hummingbirds, but this year hardly any. We don’t have Crocosima, but we have trumpet honeysuckle, pentas, cigar plant, and other hummingbird favorites.

  8. So Judy spent some time trying to capture it on film. She was a little hyperactive, so it wasn’t easy.

    Does “She” in the second sentence refer Judy or “it”?

  9. Absolutely deligtful, Jason, thanks for sharing this encounter. Don’t know if we get the black one here but will check.

  10. We’ve had quite a few red admirals. I’m surprised no yellow swallowtails yet, because they were quite common in the garden last year. A couple of monarchs, but they were moving too fast for me to get any photos. But I do believe I see frass and caterpillar chewing marks on my Milkweed, so I’m hopeful. We saw plentiful butterflies up at Germania State Wildlife Area this past weekend–several monarchs, red admirals, and several others. Beautiful photos of the black swallowtail!

  11. Fabulous butterfly, we don’t have black swallowtails here but we do have the usual yellow ones and the Scarce swallowtail which is actually the more common one!

  12. Beautiful pictures! I think the swallowtails are my favorites and I was pleased to find a few caterpillars on the fennel in my own yard. It’s a tough life though, seems everyone likes a caterpillar meal (present company excluded)

  13. Jacob Cline is very aggressive in my garden. Over the years it has marched from one side to another in the garden as I removed old plants to allow new growth room to grow.

    • All Monardas are pretty aggressive, I think. With mine I just pull out the stems if they pop up where I don’t want them.

  14. Great shot….I never seem to have my camera with me when a moment like this happens. Glad you captured it.

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