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An Easy Butterfly Gardener’s Guide to Albuquerque, NM Swallowtails

Table of Contents for Swallowtail Butterflies and Host Plants in Albuquerque, NM

Albuquerque, New Mexico is located in central New Mexico in the County of Bernalillo and has two plant hardiness zones. The main part of the city is in zone 7, while to south is zone 8, and to the northeast is zone 6. Albuquerque has seven species of swallowtail butterflies that you can host in your butterfly garden.

Location of the Albuquerque, NM Area

Black and white map showing the location of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Red dot showing location of Albuquerque New Mexico — The original uploader was Seth Ilys at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Albuquerque, New Mexico is located within Bernalillo County in central New Mexico. This blog post covers the entire county as the Albuquerque area.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones in Albuquerque, New Mexico

2023 map showing the USDA plant hardiness zones in the state of New Mexico.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones in New Mexico — USDA public domain

The Albuquerque, NM area is located in three zones depending on elevation. The city of Albuquerque is in zone 7, but to the south is zone 8. The northeastern part of the county has a high point that is within zone 6. When selecting plants you will want to get those that can handle temperatures as cold as 0F to be sure they will survive.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) and its host plants in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Eggs of pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) on a plant.
Eggs of Pipevine Swallowtail — Insects Unlocked, CC0
Caterpillar of the pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) on the ground.
Caterpillar of Pipevine Swallowtail — Insects Unlocked, CC0
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) on a yellow goldenrod plant.
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) — ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0
Brown chrysalis of pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) on a twig.
Brown chrysalis of pipevine swallowtail — Meganmccarty, Public domain

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

The pipevine swallowtail flies throughout the United States, except for the Pacific Northwest. It has orange-brown eggs that are laid on the host plant. The black to brown to red caterpillar with orange markings comes out in the spring. They then overwinter as a pupa (Monroe and Wright 2017).

In the spring and into the summer the adult butterflies start to fly. They have a wingspan of 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) to 5 inches (12.7 cm) inches and are black colored with white markings.

Plants that Host the Pipevine Swallowtail

The pipevine swallowtail is generally hosted by members of the birthwort family (Aristolochiaceae). In the Albuquerque area there are no species present in this family. However, there is a breeding population in southwestern New Mexico, which feeds on Watson’s pipevine (Aristolochia watsonii). This species is able to fly long distances (Pajarito Environmental Education Center) can be nourished with nectar species in the Albuquerque area.

Brown flower of watson's dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia watsonii).
Aristolochia watsonii Wooton & Standl. observed in Mexico by Sula Vanderplank (licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Giant Swallowtail (Papilo cresphontes) and its host plants in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Yellow of egg of giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) on a green leaf.
Egg of Giant Swallowtail — Anne Toal from US, CC BY 2.0
Brownish-black caterpillar of giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) on a leaf.
Caterpillar of Giant Swallowtail — Aaron Carlson from Menomonie, WI, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0
Brown chrysalis of giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) attached to a leaf.
Brown chrysalis of Giant Swallowtail — Ianaré Sévi, CC BY-SA 3.0
Adult of giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) butterfly on vegetation.
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) — ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The giant swallowtail flies throughout the United States and southeast Canada, except for the northwest. Beyond North America it ranges into Central America and the Caribbean Islands. It is the largest butterfly in North America (Wikipedia – Papilio cresphontes).

Giant swallowtail has brownish-orange eggs that are laid on the host plants. The caterpillars have five stages or instars before pupating, which takes about two weeks. The chrysalis resembles dead wood (West and Hazel 1996).

The adult butterflies have a wingspans ranging from about 5.5 inches (14 cm) to 7.5 inches (19 cm) and are black and yellow colored.

Plants that Host the Giant Swallowtail

The giant swallowtail is hosted by members of the Rutaceae, of which there is one species in the Albuquerque area, common hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata).

Yellow flowers of hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) in a wooded area.
Common Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) — Mason Brock (Masebrock), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) and its host plants in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Green caterpillar of pale swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) on a leaf.
Papilio eurymedon Lucas, 1852 observed in United States of America by Dee Shea Himes (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Brown caterpillar of pale swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) on leaf.
Brown Caterpillar — Papilio eurymedon Lucas, 1852 observed in United States of America by Yann Kemper (licensed under CC0 1.0).
Adult pale swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) on vegetation.
Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) — Yellowstone National Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon)

The pale swallowtail flies in the western United States. The green eggs are laid on the leaves of the host plant. The caterpillars have two color variations, first green and then the last stage is brown. The brown chrysalis looks like bark to camouflage it (Wikipedia – Papilio eurymedon).

The black and cream colored adults have a wingspan of 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) to 4.5 inches (11.4 cm).

Plants that Host the Pale Swallowtail

The pale swallowtail uses members of the Buckthorn Family (Rhamnaceae) and the Rose Family (Rosaceae) as host plants. Some plants in the Albuquerque area that host this species include:

  • Fendler’s Buckbrush (Ceanothus fendleri): a shrub
  • Members of the Geum (Avens) genus: herbaceous plants
  • Members of the Potentilla (Cinquefoil) genus: herbaceous plants
  • Members of the Prunus (Cherry) genus: herbaceous plants
  • Members of the Rubus (Raspberries) genus: herbaceous plants
White flowers of fendlers buckbrush (Ceanothus fendleri).
Fendler’s Buckbrush (Ceanothus fendleri) — JerryFriedman, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Red fruits of red raspberry (Rubus idaeus).
Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) — AnRo0002, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) and its host plants in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Orange egg of old world swallowtail (Papilio machaon) on twig.
Egg of Old World Swallowtail — Zeynel Cebeci, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Caterpillar of old world swallowtail (Papilio machaon) on vegetation.
Caterpillar of Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) — Bj.schoenmakers, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Adult of old world swallowtail (Papilio machaon) on white flower.
Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) — Dendrofil, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

The old world swallowtail flies in Europe and North America. In North America it flies in the midwest and western United States, incuding Alaska and western Canada.

The orange eggs are laid on the host plants. The caterpillar is black and white striped with orange spots.

The adult butterflies have wingspans ranging from about 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) to 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) and are black and yellow colored with blue markings on the hindquarters and two red eyespots. Sometimes the black coloring is washed out and more yellowish.

Plants that Host the Old World Swallowtail

The old world swallowtail uses members of the carrot family (Apiaceae) as host plants. Some species in the Albuquerque area that host this swallowtail include:

  • Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata): a herbaceous plant
  • Alpine Spring-Parsley (Cymopterus lemmonii): a herbaceous plant
  • American Cow-Parsnip (Heracleum maximum): a herbaceous plant
  • Porter’s Wild Lovage (Ligusticum porteri): a herbaceous plant
  • Constance’s Venus-Parsley (Vesper constancei): a herbaceous plant
Plant of porter's wild lovage (Ligusticum porteri) in a wooded area.
Porter’s Wild Lovage (Ligusticum porteri) — JerryFriedman, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) and its host plants in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Orange caterpillar of two-tailed swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) on leaf.
Orange Caterpillar of Two-tailed Swallowtail — Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org, CC BY 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons
Green caterpillar of two-tailed swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) on leaf.
Green Caterpillar of Two-tailed Swallowtail — Bill Bouton from San Luis Obispo, CA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Two-tailed swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) on pink flower.
Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) — ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

The two-tailed swallowtail flies in the western United States and Central America. The yellowish eggs are laid singly on the host plants. The caterpillar starts out black and white and then becomes orange to green. The brownish chrysalis is camouflaged.

The adults have a wingspan of 3 inches (7.6 cm) to 6.5 inches (16.5 cm), are yellow and black colored and is similar to the tiger swallowtails. They differ from the others with thinner stripes and they have two tails on the hindwing.

Plants that Host the Two-tailed Swallowtail

The two-tailed swallowtail utilizes members of the Rue Family (Rutaceae) and the Rose Family (Rosaceae). Some species in the Albuquerque area include:

  • Common Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata): a shrub to tree
  • Members of the Geum (Avens) genus: herbaceous plants
  • Members of the Potentilla (Cinquefoil) genus: herbaceous plants
  • Members of the Prunus (Cherry) genus: herbaceous plants
  • Members of the Rubus (Raspberries) genus: herbaceous plants
Yellow flowers of hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) in a wooded area.
Common Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) — Mason Brock (Masebrock), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Yellow flowers of red cinquefoil (Potentilla concinna) in rocks.
Red Cinquefoil (Potentilla concinna) — Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) and its host plants in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Black and white caterpillar of black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) on vegetation.
Black and White Caterpillar of Black Swallowtail — Inklet Arts, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Green and yellow caterpillar of black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).
Caterpillar of Black Swallowtail — NCBioTeacher, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Greenish-brown chrysalis of black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).
Chrysalis of Black Swallowtail — Photo by and (c)2009 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man), GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons
Black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) on fence.
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) — Kaldari, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The black swallowtail flies in most of the United States, except for the Northwest. The yellow eggs are laid on the host plants and take about a week to hatch. The caterpillars are at first black colored but later have green, black, and yellow coloring and last from a week to a month. The butterflies then survive the winter as a chrysalis.

The adults have a wingspan of 2.5 (7cm) to 3.5 inches (8.5cm) and are black colored with yellow spots along the wings and a red eyepsot near the tail on the top. The underside has orange spots.

Plants that Host the Black Swallowtail

The black swallowtail is a generalist and uses members of the carrot family (Apiaceae) as host plants. Some examples of carrot family members in Albuquerque include:

  • Cut-leaf Water-Parsnip (Berula erecta): a herbaceous plant
  • Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata): a herbaceous plant
  • Alpine Spring-Parsley (Cymopterus lemmonii): a herbaceous plant
  • American Cow-Parsnip (Heracleum maximum): a herbaceous plant
  • Porter’s Wild Lovage (Ligusticum porteri): a herbaceous plant
  • Constance’s Venus-Parsley (Vesper constancei): a herbaceous plant
Plants of cut-leaf water-parsnip (Berula erecta) in a garden.
Cut-leaf Water-Parsnip (Berula erecta) — Karelj, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Plant of porter's wild lovage (Ligusticum porteri) in a wooded area.
Porter’s Wild Lovage (Ligusticum porteri) — JerryFriedman, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) and its host plants in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Orange caterpillar of western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) on tree.
Orange Caterpillar of Western Tiger Swallowtail — Cslucas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Green caterpillar of western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus).
Green Caterpillar of Western Tiger Swallowtail — Tsu Dho Nimh, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Adult western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) on willow.
Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilo rutulus) — Calibas at en.wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)

The western tiger swallowtail flies in the western United States and northern Mexico. The green eggs are laid on the host plants. The caterpillar when it first comes out resembles a bird dropping but then becomes orange and then green with age. The chrysalis looks like wood to camouflage it.

The adults have a wingspan of 3 inches (7.6 cm) to 4 inches (10.1 cm) and are yellow with black stripes. Generally there are one to two broods a year.

Plants that Host the Western Tiger Swallowtail

The western tiger swallowtail, like its eastern counterpart, is a generalist and feeds on numerous shrubs and trees. Some species in the Albuquerque area include:

  • Speckled Alder (Alnus incana): a shrub to tree
  • Water Birch (Betula occidentalis): a shrub to tree
  • Velvet Ash (Fraxinus velutina): a tree
  • Cultivated Apple (Malus pumila): an introduced tree
  • Black Cherry (Prunus serotina): a tree
  • Narrow-leaf Cottonwood (Populus angustifolia): a tree
  • Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides): a tree
  • Arroyo Willow (Salix lasiolepis): a shrub to tree
Narrow-leaf cottonwood (Populus angustifolia) in an open area.
Narrow-leaf Cottonwood (Populus angustifolia) — Mason Brock (Masebrock), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Flowers of arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis).
Arroyo Willow (Salix lasiolepis) — ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Anise Swallowtail (Papilo zelicaon) and its host plants in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Green and black caterpillar of anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) on leaf.
Green and Black Caterpillar of Anise Swallowtail — Bento00, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Adult anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) on yellow willow flower.
Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) — ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Female anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) on ground.
Female Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) — Eugene Zelenko, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)

The anise swallowtail flies in the western United States. The greenish eggs are laid on the leaves of spicebush. The caterpillars are dark brown in the first two instars but become more green ending with a green, black, and yellow color. The chrysalis has the appearance of a branch (Wikipedia – Papilio zelicaon) of the host plant and is light green to brown (butterfly identification).

The adults have a wingspan of 2 inches (5 cm) to 3 inches (7.6 cm) and are black and yellow with blue on the hindquarters and a red eyespot on the bottom middle. This species looks like the eastern tiger swallowtail without the vertical stripes and is smaller (butterfly identification).

Plants that Host the Anise Swallowtail

The anise swallowtail utilizes members of the carrot family (Apiaceae) as host plants. Some examples in the Albuquerque area incude:

  • Cut-leaf Water-Parsnip (Berula erecta): a herbaceous plant
  • Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata): a herbaceous plant
  • Alpine Spring-Parsley (Cymopterus lemmonii): a herbaceous plant
  • American Cow-Parsnip (Heracleum maximum): a herbaceous plant
  • Porter’s Wild Lovage (Ligusticum porteri): a herbaceous plant
  • Constance’s Venus-Parsley (Vesper constancei): a herbaceous plant
Plant of spotted water-hemlock (Cicuta maculata).
Spotted Water-Hemlock (Cicuta maculata) — Williammehlhorn at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Plant of alpine spring-parsley (Cymopterus lemmonii) in wooded area.
Alpine Spring-parsley (Cymopterus lemmonii) — Patrick Alexander from Las Cruces, NM, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nectar Plants to Consider Putting in Your Garden

Close-up of greenish-white flowers of zizotes milkweed (Asclepias oenotheroides).
Zizotes Milkweed (Asclepias oenotheroides) — Patrick Alexander from Las Cruces, NM, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

While the swallowtails need certain species of plants to use as hosts, the adults also need nectar plants to visit in order to get nourishment. Nectar plants can also help other insects such as bees and no garden is complete without nectar plants. Some common nectar plants that can be grown in the Albuquerque, NM area include:

  • Goldenrods (Solidago spp.): a genus of herbaceous plants
  • Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) — Also benefit the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus): a genus of herbaceous plants
  • Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.): a genus of herbaceous plants
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): a herbaceous plant
  • Green-head Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata): a herbaceous plant
  • Ragworts (Senecio spp.): a genus of herbaceous plants
  • Hedgeflower (Lantana camara): a herbaceous plant that attracts butterflies

Frequently Asked Questions

How much land do I need to start a butterfly garden?

Every plant that you can grow can make a difference for visitors to your garden, especially in urban areas. Potted plants are also useful en masse for pollinators. When planting your garden, make sure you plant both the host plants and nectar plants for the adults to feed on.

Where should I get my plants?

For pollinators, it is best to have native plant species. The insects will be used to these plants more than ones from other places. Be sure you get your plants from a reputable nursery does not use neocontinids that would harm visitors to your garden.

Are there gardens near me, where I can see an example of a butterfly garden?

Albuquerque has a large botanical garden where there is a butterfly garden and pavillion. It is below:

ABQ Biopark: a park in Albuquerque with a butterfly garden and Pavillion.

Books where you can find out more about Butterfly Gardening in the Albuqurque, NM Area

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References

  • Cary, Steven J. 2021. Butterflies of New Mexico. Link to website.
  • Shiraiwa, Kojiro, Qian Cong, and Nick V. Grishin. 2014. A new Heraclides swallowtail (Lepidoptera, Papilionidae) from North American recognized by the pattern on its neck. Zookeys 468: 85-135.
  • West, David A. and Wade N. Hazel. 1996. Natural Pupation sites of three North American swallowtail butterflies: Eurytides marcellus (Cramer), Papilio cresphontes Cramer, and P. troilus L. (Papilionidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 50: 297-302.
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Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe is a professional ecologist and botanist who has worked as the State Ecologist of Delaware and as an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He is also a former Past-President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. He currently is an innkeeper at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC and a web designer and owner for Silphium Design LLC.

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