Anise Swallowtail Butterfly

(Papilio zelican)

The brilliant colored Anise Swallowtail ranges throughout the western United States and southwestern Canada.

It is seen flitting through canyons and meadows where its favorite host plant fennel or wild Anise grows.

This swallowtail is on the wing throughout the year in southern California and in May and June throughout the remainder of its natural range.

Anise swallowtail butterfly

It is especially common in South California where fennel grows naturally along roadsides, vacant lots, canyons and in your gardens.

Because fennel is so easy to grow and store, the swallowtail can be raised from egg to adult indoors and then released.


The Anise swallowtail is yellow and black, with beautiful patches of blue on the hind wings and an orange spot on the inside of each hind wing.

Average size is 2 and 5/8 inches to 3 and 3/8 inches wing tip to wing tip.


This species is found in a wide range of habitats, from mountain peaks to valleys and gardens.

In urban settings, you may see them in vacant lots parks, canyons and gardens.


Males spend much of their time on hilltops, where they perch and patrol in search of females.

They also form at mud puddles sucking up moisture and nutrients from wet areas.

Larvae and host plants:

Larvae feed on various members of the carrot family including carrots, parsley, anise and fennel.

Young larvae are black with white markings, resembling bird droppings.

Mature larvae are green with black bands that have yellow stripes.

Plant plenty of host plants in your gardens.

Keep netting over the ones you want to keep for human use, this keeps the female from laying eggs on your choice plants.

Nectar flowers:

These swallowtails really enjoy Lantana, Zinnia, Agapanthus, Butterfly bush and other open flowers they can rest on in your gardens.

Add a mud puddle for added pleasure.

Anise Swallowtail and Other Common Butterflies

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