Black Swallowtail

Black swallowtail in Toronto © Sarah Pietrkiewicz

What is Project Swallowtail?

Project Swallowtail is a collaborative effort to connect communities street by street and empower residents to restore nature in west Toronto. This pilot project will also be used to develop a framework for replication in neighbourhoods across Canada.

 

Giant swallowtail butterfly feeding on swamp milkweed

Giant swallowtail butterfly feeding on swamp milkweed © Shutterstock / Kevin Collison

Why is this important?

In human-dominated landscapes across Canada and the world, many wildlife species are in decline or at risk of extinction because of habitat loss. The best way to reverse this is through ecological restoration — the recovery of degraded ecosystems; a process typically done in non-urban settings. The most basic principle of ecological restoration is to plant native plants. This strategy is also a nature-based solution for climate: it draws carbon out of the atmosphere and makes our landscape more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Project Swallowtail will show how citizens, eNGOs and government agencies can work together to restore ecosystems in the city. Ultimately, this will bring communities together to fight the dual crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly on a Pink Wildflower

Zebra swallowtail butterfly on a pink wildflower © Shutterstock / David Byron Keener

Where is the project area and why was this area chosen?

West Toronto Map

Project area outlined in blue. Municipal parks are shown in green. Project Swallowtail participants will connect these green spaces by planting native plants in front and back yards, balconies, rooftops, condo grounds, boulevards, community and faith centers and more.
Map Data © Google 2020.

This location, part of west Toronto, was chosen as the pilot project area for two reasons:
1. Ecological connectivity is at the core of our strategy. We chose neighbourhoods directly adjacent to High Park so that they can connect to habitat already available in the park.
2. Connecting the parks from Christie Pits to Lake Ontario creates a downtown habitat corridor.

Eastern tiger swallowtail on purple coneflower

Eastern tiger swallowtail on purple coneflower © Suzy Bazely

Who is involved?

Project Swallowtail is a collaborative effort that involves residents, neighbourhoods and community groups as well as a variety of individuals and organizations including, WWF-Canada, the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto, Pollinator Partnership Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, the High Park Stewards, the North American Native Plant Society and Ecoman. We have also received expert advice from Lorraine Johnson, Colleen Cirillo and Brian Millward.

For more information watch our "Welcome to Project Swallowtail" webinar recording.

A pipevine swallowtail butterfly at Klingman's Dome, Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Pipevine swallowtail
© Shutterstock / James W. Thompson

A pipevine swallowtail butterfly at Klingman’s Dome, Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Flowers and first leaves of pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) in forest of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

Paw Paw flower
© Shutterstock / Gerry Bishop

Flowers and first leaves of pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) in forest of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar (Papilio troilus)

Spicebush swallowtail larva
© Shutterstock / Jay Ondreicka

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar (Papilio troilus)

What are Swallowtail Butterflies?

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) nectaring on thistle flower

A group of large (7-15 cm wingspan), colourful, patterned butterflies with wing extensions that make them look like swallows — a group of birds also local to this area. The six species featured on this page are native to the Carolinian Zone and have been seen in west Toronto, though some of these species are now quite rare. The main reason for their disappearance is that the plants their caterpillars need to eat are gone. Luckily, these plants happen to be beautiful and well suited to urban gardens.

Grow the host plants and swallowtails will come back. Grow lots of different native plants and a vast diversity of life can return.

To learn more about these six swallowtails and their host plants, as well as other great native plants for your garden that help restore habitat for wildlife, check out Project Swallowtail’s Plant and Butterfly Guide.

Photo: Spicebush swallowtail on thistle © Shutterstock / Melinda Fawver

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