Dr. Kim Pegram, insect ecologist and exhibit specialist, studies butterflies at the Garden. She helps to make sure our butterflies in the butterfly exhibit are healthy and takes care of the caterpillars and chrysalises. She also researches Sonoran Desert butterfly behavior and how butterflies interact with plants here in the desert. Do you have a question about butterflies? You can email your question to askbutterflies@dbg.org. Kim will answer select questions weekly, with answers posted here. 

Week of April 24: 

Question: Why do Polygonia interrogationis butterflies have the common name “Question Mark” butterfly?

Answer:  The Question Mark butterfly has a spot on its wing that looks a little bit like a question mark. 

 

Question: What is eating my citrus tree? What butterfly is frequently visiting my citrus tree? 

Answer: The Giant Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars eat citrus leaves. It is one of the only plants in this region they can eat. You may see female Giant Swallowtail butterflies flying around the tree as they scout a good place to lay eggs, or land to lay eggs. The eggs are small and a green/orange color – often found on the newest and most tender leaves. The caterpillars are very small when they hatch from the egg but will get to be several inches long. They are brown and resemble bird droppings (as a defense against predation). Caterpillars will crawl away from the hostplant to form the chrysalis. Yes, you may see some leaf damage, but the tree should recover. Any pesticide use can kill this beautiful butterfly. 

 

Question: If I put oranges slices in my yard will I get butterflies to come to them, like in the Butterfly Pavilion? 

Answer: The oranges in our exhibit serve as supplemental food. Butterflies drink nectar as their food source, and will prefer to go to flowers first. If you want to attract butterflies to your yard, add flowers! Orange slices may attract some butterflies, but you are more likely to just attract ants.