Oregon Swallowtail caterpillars are host plant specialists, feeding on wild tarragon, which used to be found all over the Umatilla River basin. Sometimes perceived as a weed, farmers and residential gardeners have slowly removed it from the region. As wild tarragon has disappeared from the Pendleton area, so have these gorgeous butterflies. Our goal is to bring them back. Our friends, Richard and Lynn Galloway, of Galloway Artisans, have kindly allowed us to create a farm annex on their property along Patawa Creek (adjacent to Grecian Heights Park).
In spring of 2020, we planted wild tarragon starts on their property. This year, the plants are big enough to begin sleeving caterpillars.
Here is an approximately one-week-old caterpillar who was recently moved into a sleeve.
If you want to help us achieve this goal, you can plant wild tarragon in your yard. (Caterpillars will also eat French culinary tarragon or Russian tarragon, but the female butterflies will only lay eggs on the wild variety.) We offer plant starts for local pickup or can ship them throughout Oregon. We wild release these butterflies in the Pendleton area every year, but if you're interested in wild releasing them yourself, chrysalids are available each winter for spring eclosing and we occasionally offer them as summer pupae.
Additionally, we have Lomatium plants, also known as "Indian celery," interspersed with the wild tarragon. When these get big enough, we'll be able to use them for raising Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) and Cliff Swallowtail (Papilio indra) caterpillars.