Black Beauty

Butterflies, Butterfly larval plant, Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area

The last session of the 2018 Florida Medical Entomology (FMEL) Volunteer Nature Stewardship class featured FMEL researcher Dr. Nathan Burkett-Cadena and Florida Atlantic University Wilkes Honors College Professor Dr. Jon Moore. Their sustained willingness to share their knowledge with the class is most appreciated.

A short walk on the south Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) followed, and Donna Winter (Class of 2016 ) pointed out a beautiful eastern black swallowtail butterfly (Papilo polyxenes asterius) sunning atop a myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia). Myrtle oaks have roundish leaves, and Fergie Peters (Class of Winter 1999) coined the mnemonic, “Myrtle has a round bottom”.

The UF Featured Creatures website describes the eastern black swallowtail butterfly as “one of the most common and most studied swallowtails”. Click here to read about this beauty.

This butterfly is likely the culprit that ravages your parsley (Petroselinum crispum) plants. It has a wide range of larval host plants including cultivated herbs in the Apiaceae (carrot) family and citrus (Rutaceae). Some citrus trees that escaped cultivation “hang on” in the hammock areas at ORCA on the north side of Oslo Road. Or, it could be feeding on one of its native host plants like the very poisonous spot water hemlock (Cicuta maculata) that can be found growing in the ditches along Oslo Road.

Whatever it feasted on as a caterpillar, it is always a delight to see as an adult.