Giant Swallowtail Butterfly vs Citrus Leafminer Moths

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio cresphontes) lay their eggs on the tender young leaves of many types of citrus, including Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit and Kumquat. The Giant Swallowtail Caterpillars feeds on the leaves of the citrus tree until pupating and emerging as one of the North America’s largest butterflies.

Damaged Citrus Leaves due to the Citrus Leafminer

Damaged Citrus Leaves due to the Citrus Leafminer

In the last several years the influx of the Citrus Leafminer has left little food for the larva of these large graceful butterflies. The Citrus Leafminer (Phyllocnistis citrella) also lays it’s egss on citrus.  The Citrus Leafminer is a very small, light colored moth. Their newly emerged larvae immediately begin feeding on the leaves and “mine” themselves inside the top or bottom layer of the citrus leaf, causing the leaves to curl and harden making them inedible for the caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly.

Please don’t spray citrus trees with insecticides, instead use Blue Sticky Traps or Citrus Leafminer Pheromone Traps which attract the male citrus Leafminer and help to reduce the population and reproduction of these pests.

Protect the tender new growth of your citrus tree for the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly and help create a friendlier environment for the these lovely butterflies!

For more information on ecologically sound pest management visit the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) web site.

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10 Responses to Giant Swallowtail Butterfly vs Citrus Leafminer Moths
  1. Jan
    June 6, 2016 | 2:48 pm

    I see this is an old blog post but I hope you’re still looking out for questions! our giant swallowtail usually lay eggs on the limequat tree which has leaf miners. I’ve brought the leaves with eggs and caterpillars and have had moderate success. This year she also laid eggs on the calamondon (sp?) and now it has leaf miners! I brought this tree inside and have 7+ newborns but am really worried about the leaves curling around them and also the leaves being sticky. Any advice?

    • OWB
      June 6, 2016 | 3:15 pm

      Hi Jan, Congrats on the giant swallowtail but yuck on the citrus leaf miners. I suppose you could transfer the tiny cats to fresh unaffected leaves. If you take the leaves off the plant and feed your cats in a cup, keep a damp paper towel under the fresh leaves in the cup to keep them from rolling up. You should also pick yourself up some leafminer traps. The trap attracts male citrus leafminer adults and prevents them from mating with females. I the meanwhile, you could ask friends and neighbors if they have any un-sprayed citrus leaves they could give you, keep the leaves in a zip lock wrapped in a damp paper towel to keep the leaves fresh. Also, you could purchase a rue plant Ruta graveolens, commonly known as rue, common rue or herb-of-grace. The giant swallowtails love it and it doesn’t get leafminers! Best of luck.

  2. celestial elf
    April 22, 2011 | 4:03 pm

    Amazing Post thank you 😀
    thought you might like my machinima film the butterfly’s tale~
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1fO8SxQs-E
    Bright Blessings
    elf ~

    • OWB
      April 22, 2011 | 5:28 pm

      Thank you Celestial Elf, thanks for sharing your amazing video, it’s a beautiful work of art! I will definitely share it with all my butterfly friends.
      ~Vickie

  3. Steve
    September 1, 2010 | 10:04 am

    Thanks for this information. A few days ago, this beautiful butterfly flew into our garden – lingered, then landed upon our lemon tree – wings spread, displaying its lovely markings. We will hope for more of these sightings as time passes.

  4. Beca - Who loves gardens.
    April 18, 2010 | 3:54 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful information. Glad we found each other.

    I bookmarked your site ..

  5. William
    December 11, 2009 | 10:32 pm

    I noticed some Giant Swallowtail butterflies in my back yard (Southern Calif.) and managed to photograph their lifecyle – fascinating! See web page: http://www.wyllz.com – Also have Monarch life cycle.

    • OWB
      December 12, 2009 | 12:34 pm

      Wow William, Very nice butterfly lifecycle pictures! Thanks for sharing them with us. Please tell us what type of macro lens and equipment you used! Your images of the scales on butterfly wings are amazing!
      Thanks again,
      Vickie
      Be sure to visit William’s Photo Gallery here: http://www.wyllz.com

  6. jill
    September 21, 2009 | 10:49 am

    Good tip. Enormous butterflies flittering around definitely make pesticide decisions become significant.

    Gorgeous picture, as always!

  7. Casimir
    September 15, 2009 | 8:53 pm

    Great advice! Pesticides would more likely kill butterfly caterpillars than leaf miners, because the miners are protected between layers of leaf tissues. They don’t eat the outside layer, where most pesticides accumulate.

    I’m glad I found your blog. It’s both fun and informative! Keep up the good work.

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