giant swallowtail returns

Anne Kilmer viceroy at
Sat Jul 3 02:25:48 EDT 1999

> The only lep I have ever heard of eating avocado foliage is a large
> tropical saturniid in the genus Rothschildia (I don't recall the
> species).  Does this mean that there is nothing else that eats avocado?
> **HEAVENS NO**!  I just haven't heard of it yet.  As for swallowtails
> eating avocado, smae goes for them: I haven't heard of any, but it
> wouldn't surprise me.  Maybe Chris Conlan knows what the scoop is.
> Chris, are you reading?
> --
> Pierre Plauzoles   ae779 at
> Canoga Park, California
OK. According to my list, Papilio palamedes uses (in Florida) red bay,
(Persea borbonica) sweet bay, sassafras and avocado (Persea americana).
There's a lot of difference between different avocado leaves, speaking
as a herbalist of sorts. Some of them are medicinal. They make a
pleasant tea, good for colds and fear, as I recall. Some of them are
just nasty.
I think there are some Mexican recipes involving avocado leaves ...
wrapped around bits of chicken or pork or some such. Those are probably
the avocadoes your butterfly would fancy.
I notice, scurrying on down the list, that the spicebush swallowtail
(Papilio troilus) uses spicebush (Lindera benzoin), various bays incl.
Persea borbonica, and Sassafras. No mention of avocado but that doesn't
prove a thing.
The Tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus, in Florida, uses sweetbay,
magnolia spp., spicebush, and the willow, maple, ash and cherry you're
accustomed to.
If nature went by logic, which it may or may not, I would see no reason
why, given a tasty avocado, it should not lay upon that.
I don't think we have nearly enough people in the field finding out
which garden plants butterflies lay their eggs on. All of us in a state
of denial, that's what we are. :-) Weeds, they eat weeds, we claim.
As for the giant swallowtail, I've never see them do much harm to
anything except very young citrus trees. But our predators know that the
larvae are food. It takes a while for vertebrate predators to recognize
and accept a new source of food. Looking like a turd and smelling like
dirty socks must have some advantage, or the race would surely have lost
these characteristics.
Grove owners don't like this butterfly ... I suppose they know.
We have so many problems with citrus trees these days, what with new
pests coming in daily, diseases and cankers and so forth, that I bet the
Ag people would love to have the homeowners abandon growing citrus, and
concentrate on planting native plants.
Sally, wsa your butterfly nectaring on the leaves, or actually laying
eggs? The postures are entirely different, you know.
Anne Kilmer

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