Swallowtails

We just answered a regular reader’s question about the swallowtails we featured yesterday and thought perhaps we should show a comparison of all the swallowtails we happen to have photos of. We are by no means experts, and admit we have help from another reader–hi, Nancy!

The question was about the ‘dark phase’ being a Tiger Swallowtail. It is that same species, not a different one. The females are dimorphic, a biology term meaning they can have two forms, in this case, two colorations or phases. The scales that are normally yellow are a dark gray to black instead.

This should not be confused with Black Swallowtails, Pipevine Swallowtails and Spicebush Swallowtails, which are normally black. We should also point out that the dark phase here is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. From our research, we think it only occurs in the Eastern species. And, er, the the yellow ones we showed mineral sipping are Western Tiger Swallowtails. We were given those photos from our field correspondent in Colorado (remember Coney?) and actually didn’t put it together they were a different species. Sorry for any confusion that may have caused.

We won’t go into identification features here because it’s so complicated (which is why Nancy helps us) and there are better sites for that. We feel that if you know the possible names, you can look them up. So here we go with some comparison swallowtail photos, with names below the image!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Western Tiger Swallowtail from Colorado. Note it does not have the blue above the ‘tails.’

dark phase Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

female Black Swallowtail

male Black Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

Pale Swallowtail – also a species from Colorado

Mexican Sunflower

Mexican Sunflower standIt’s the end of summer and the sunflowers are standing tall. One of the best we squirrels have seen you human’s plant is the Mexican Sunflower–about 7 feet tall!

 

Tiger Swallowtail on Mexican Sunflower

And the butterflies, like this Tiger Swallowtail, sure seem to love them.

Mexican Sunflower

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Thought we’d do another double mystery. What is the butterfly and what flower is it visiting? Hope you noticed the butterfly is yellow! The flower is white, though that isn’t too clear in this photo.

Mystery #156

Give us your guesses and we’ll pop by later to check for correct answers!

~~~

Well folks, I’m sure some of you guessed this beautiful yellow butterfly is a Tiger Swallowtail–yellow and black stripes, right?  The plant is a little harder, though. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, is native to the North America in the east and south. The leaves are rather plain, and could be mistaken for Red-twig Dogwood, which also grows in wet areas. However, buttonbush will only grow in wet areas, including swamps, floodplains and freshwater marshes. It’s sometimes called ‘buttonwillow’ because similar to willows, it likes wet roots.

Tiger swallowtail butterfly on Common Buttonbush

The flowers are little round balls, so we squirrels aren’t sure why you humans named it ‘button’ bush. Their nectar is attractive to insects–obviously!–and hummingbirds.

Tattered Butterflies

Hi all,

It’s Nutmeg back with you again. Acorn harvesting is still underway—is it ever over?—but I have a nice collection gathered so will retake the reins from Hickory. Thank you Hickory for the week highlighting our local food sources.

We haven’t had a freeze yet, so many insect—including mosquitoes—are still hanging around. But most of the butterflies are looking poorly, as Miz Flora would say. Take a look at our recent Swallowtail visitors.

We’ve had both the yellow and the dark varieties visit this Butterfly Bush.

Joe-Pye Weed

Miz Flora pointed me to an unusual plant for a suburban garden, but we’ve got one. Oh, several, she says, and they’re spreading around by seed now.

It’s Joe-Pye Weed, an Euthrochium species. Kind of hard to miss because they are tall for a flower – six to eight feet once they get established. And as you can see, quite popular with nectar-feeding insects.

In the short time we visited, a Tiger Swallowtail, a bumblebee and another solitary bee visited and several other smaller insects came and went, too fast to see what they were. You can see one flying through the bumblebee photo.

 

It’s neat how all those bitty flowers that attract even the smallest insects combine to make a huge head of pink on this wildflower.