Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar

Bander caterpillar, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
August 1, 2009
Hi. I found this gorgeous caterpillar hanging on to a stalk of poison hemlock yesterday in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco yesterday. (It’s August first today.) I’m dying to know what kind of butterfly or moth it will become.
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA

Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar
Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar

Hi Harvey,
This is an Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar, Papilio zelicaon.  The caterpillars are generally found on sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) which is an introduced plant.  It is also found on carrot tops and parsley in the home garden.  According to Charles Hogue in his book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, “Before the introduction of these foreign plants, the larvae fed on various native umbellifers, such a Lamotium, Heracleum, and Tauschia species.”  We have never heard of them feeding on Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum, but as it is in the same family, Apiaceae, as the other plants, this is not unusual.

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