I saw the first one for the season today!
The Orchard Butterfly or Orchard Swallowtail, is one of the largest native butterflies – native to the east coast that is. In its native forest habitat the female lays eggs on the leaves of native orange and finger limes. However, in our backyard they have a penchant for the Tahitian lime and the Kaffir Lime – the latter was consequently stripped of about 90% of its leaves. With the assistance of some worm juice it came back. But its taken a while.
A week after they are laid the eggs hatch with young that resemble bird droppings of sorts. As they increase in size they turn green and are more difficult to spot. In about five weeks the caterpillar reaches its maximum size and molts to wrap itself in a hard pupal case that it attaches to a leaf or a stem or even structures in the garden. It looks rather impressive for its size compared to other pupas seen in our garden.
Normally it is ready to emerge in five to six weeks, but may take longer in our cooler climate. I’ve watched two this past autumn and winter just weathering the storms. Eventually, after months they disappeared some weeks ago which makes sense as they are said to emerge in spring to once again hover in our garden trying to track down our citrus trees.
The males are mainly black with cream and red spots whilst the females have red and blue spots with larger patches of white.
With a garden oasis featuring buddleia and butterfly bush and a couple of citrus trees we are usually the first point of call in the new season for these giants.
There is more info here.