This is a picture of an anise swallowtail female that was raised from a caterpillar. If you want to look for anise swallowtail eggs or caterpillars, it's important to look right after their main flight. Along the California coast, anise swallowtails fly from early spring to fall. In the Rocky Mountains, anise swallowtails generally in Mayat elevations around 5000 feet; June at elevations around 6-7,000 feet; and July at 8-9,000 feet.
In the Western U.S., you can usually find anise swallowtail butterflies in mountain canyons. Anise swallowtails use many species of parsleys that grow in canyons or on hillsides.
Fernleaf biscuitroot (Lomatium dissectum) is a common host plant for Papilio zelicaon along the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. It can be found along the roadside of City Creek Canyon right past the entrance gated area.
Fernleaf biscuitroot (Lomatium dissectum) is another species of parsley that anise swallowtails use in Great Basin and Rocky Mountains (especially in Utah). Note the distinctive yellow flowerhead towards the bottom of the photograph.
Along the West Coast from Southern California to the Puget Sound, anise swallowtail caterpillars feed on fennel or anise (Foeniculum vulgare) as a host plant. It is possible to find caterpillars in your yard, along roadsides or highways, or in disturbed areas where this plant grows. This butterfly has many generations from early spring to late fall (especially in Southern California); so it makes sense to check this plant for eggs or caterpillars often.
When you find parsleys growing in mountainous areas where anise swallowtails fly, look on the underside of the leaves or right near the flowers for anise swallowtail eggs.
If finding swallowtail eggs and caterpillars is too difficult, another option is to collect a live female and set her up in a cage to lay eggs. This is a picture of an anise swallowtail female in a cage laying eggs on parsley. One technique is to place a popup cage over a live parsley and secure the cage with rocks as shown in this photo. Feed the female butterfly with honey water before she lays eggs. See .
Place cuttings of parsely in a bottled water with a narrow neck. Carefully place your caterpillar on the parsley. As you do this, make sure you cork off any spacing between the plant sprigs and the neck of the water bottle with facial tissue wads so that the larva can't crawl down the plant and drown. Make sure that there is plenty of parsley to feed your caterpillar for roughly five days.
Once you have setup your water bottles with caterpillars on plant, place them in a 5 gallon bucket. Make sure the lid has plenty of ventilation either by poking holes in it or cutting out a circular section and fastening netting over the lid.
You need to replace your parsley cuttings and remove all waste every five days or so to ensure that your caterpillars are getting fresh plant in a healthy environment. (This type of procedure becomes extremely critical when raising indra swallowtails; which will be reviewed in the section.)
If replacing parsley cuttings and cleaning out water bottles every five days becomes a burden, another option is to purchase potted parsley, dill, or fennel and place in a 10 gallon glass terrarium next to a window.
However, I would recommend placing a screen cage on top of the glass terrarium in order to prevent the greenhouse effect from overheating your glass terrarium. (You don't want to cook your caterpillars.) Or, you could just leave the terrarium open if caterpillar-feeding spiders are not a concern.
One thing to remember if you decide to collect any live females for eggs. They need to be fed every day or they can die prematurely to dehydration. The technique to do this requires that you place her proboscis in soaked paper towel with honey water in a ratio of 10 parts water to 1 part honey.
Here is a photo of a third instar anise swallowtail caterpillar. Always remember to handle larvae with care when transferring them from old plant to fresh plant. You may just want to cut around the caterpillar and place it on fresh plant.
One thing to always remember is that if you do decide to move caterpillars from old to new plant, they should never be moved if they are temporarly dormant while preparing to shed their skin. Lepidopterists call this "set to moult" or "set to shed" to the next instar. This video demonstrates this concept.
When looking for anise swallowtail caterpillars on parsleys, the last stage, or fifth instar, can be the quite conspicuous on the plant.
How do we know when our anise swallowtail caterpillar is ready to form a chrysalis?
Well, it's kinda disgusting, but the best way to verify that your fifth instar caterpillar has finished feeding is that it purges its undigested food. This characteristic is typical amongst all non-Parnassius swallowtails.
Where should our caterpillar form a chrysalis? The answer is anywhere!! In nature, wandering fifth instar caterpillars may travel for long distances to find a suitable place to pupate. In the lab, all you need is to place the larva in a gizmo--for lack of a better term.
Simply take an empty toilet tissue core and cut it horizontally in half. Take one of the pieces and fasten a 3" by 3" piece of paper towel around it with a rubber band. Place the caterpillar inside. Orient the gizmo so that the caterpillar can't escape and place on a shelf in a dark area. The caterpillar usually will wander for a couple of days before setting up a prepupa and forming a chrysalis a few days after that. Click to see a video demonstration on how to construct a gizmo.
Another option is to just place the larva in a lunch sack and secure the lunch sack with paper clips.
You can see the wings developing on this anise swallowtail pupa. Photo courtesy Nicky Davis.