giant swallowtail returns

Chris Conlan conlan at
Sat Jul 3 12:47:47 EDT 1999

Hark......did I hear my name called from the vastness of cyberspace?
>Pierre A Plauzoles wrote:
>> 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?
Actually, avocado is a great hostplant for a large number of Leps.  My
specialty is Saturniids so I can speak mostly for them but the list of
species that will eat avocado is too long to put here.  Persea (and closely
allied genera) is a big genus with lots of species around the world that are
used by the local Lep fauna in those areas it occurs.  However, it is
extremely important to understand that just because a particular Lep can be
induced to feed on Persea americana (typical avocado) in captivity in no way
means that the adult female would oviposit on it under natural conditions.
Tossing a new (non native) Persea species into the mix doesn't mean it's
going to get used right away (if it even gets used at all).  This process
takes time and acceptance will certainly vary among species.  Speaking
specifically for swallowtails, there are some species in various parts of
the world that utilize Persea or other Lauraceae as hostplants.  Papilio
garamas in Mexico is just one example.  In all these notes I seem to have
lost the original question but the only USA native Papilionids that I would
ever expect to see feeding on avocado are P. palamedes and maybe P. troilus?
 P. glaucus or rutulus would seem like a bit of a stretch.  However, if what
Anne says is true about glaucus using some of the plants she mentioned I
suppose it's not that big of a stretch.
The giant swallowtail (P. cresphontes) has been in S. California off and on
for a very long time.  We have been lucky to have it as a fairly steady
resident for the past several years now.  It seems to take a bit of a hit
over the winter but by midsummer they are back in full swing again.  It's
biggest problem around my area in San Diego seems to be ants.  I have never
had one survive on my plants outside for more than a week before the ants
found the larva and made short work of it.  Friends around town have noticed
the same thing.  With all the assorted pest problems that plague citrus
there is no shortage of ants farming the critters in those trees!  Hope this
helped a little.  Now I'll go fade back into the background.  Adios

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