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


Z is for Zebra Swallowtail

Beautiful, isn’t it? We feature this beautiful member of the swallowtail butterfly group each year because in a week of hard-to-find nature letters, it’s a staple. But it’s also harder to find this butterfly. Its caterpillars eat only one food, the leaves of the Common Paw Paw, Asimina triloba.

This understory tree lives with its roots in wet soil, along streams and rivers.

At least those leaves are huge–10 to 12 inches long and 4-6 inches wide at the middle.

The dark red flowers bloom in the spring and turn into a fruit lumpy with large seeds in the fall. Maybe you can find a tree with caterpillars feeding on it this year.

We’ve had a great time posting this year’s Blogging From A to Z Challenge! Thanks to our many readers for joining us for a look at nature in suburbia. We hope it helps you to enjoy nature around your home!

Z is for Zebra Swallowtail…on sort of Thirsty Thursday

So Nutmeg here, trading days with Ol’ Wally. We’ve come to the end of month of blogging with the Blogging A to Z Challenge. As has become a bit of a tradition here, we are ending our postings with a Zebra Swallowtail. It’s a beautiful butterfly, one of Ms. Flora’s favorites and…honestly, there just aren’t that many local animals or plants with Z names!

Zebra Swallowtails

These beautiful local butterflies do fit the water theme of our regular Thursday column because they are seen most often along streams and rivers.

Why, you should ask?

Because the caterpillars feed exclusivly on Paw Paw leaves, and the Common Paw Paw, Asimina triloba, grows in damp, rich soils along water.

Common Pawpaw Tree leaves

It’s one of the more nondescript, small, understory trees in floodplain forest, but if you are out hiking in the next week look around all that new greenery and see if you can spot the maroon flowers hanging below the leaves. Then in the fall for the pawpaw fruits…if we don’t find them first! They are so very good!

(But please don’t eat them on a squirrel’s say-so. Check into any wild foods before you humans try them!)

Z is for Zebra Swallowtail

Is that a beautiful butterfly, or what? So pretty we decided to feature this butterfly again this year, because insects were another lowly represented group during our A to Z Challenge. And, er, in case you haven’t noticed Z is not a commonly used letter in nature.

Zebra Swallowtails

The 2014 Blogging A to Z Challenge has come to an end for us. We hope you enjoyed it. We sure did! Thanks for joining us.

Pawpaw Tree

Remember those beautiful Zebra Swallowtails we featured on the last day of the Blogging A to Z Challenge? If not, take a link back to April 30th! Their caterpillars eat Pawpaw leaves.

Pawpaw Tree leaves

The Pawpaw tree, Asimina triloba, grows along streams and river bottoms. The leaves are really plain, but can get huge – 10 to 12 inches long. If your backyard is on a stream, or kind of wettish, you could grow one of these, and sing that song Miz Flora sings: “Pickin’ up paw-paws, put ’em in your pockets.”

Hickory and I aren’t quite sure if this is something squirrels want to do, but we’ll find out and let you know. And maybe we’ll be able to find some larger trees later in the season to show you. Ones with pawpaws.

Z is for Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtails

A swallowtail, but of the zebra color variety. Black and white. Yes, it’s really real. And native. These little beauties are often found near water because their caterpillars eat the leaves of the Paw Paw tree, and Paw Paws live along water.

And so ends our 2013 Blogging A To Z Challenge. We’ve had fun folks, and Hickory is already after me to see if we get a survivor’s badge.  Me, I wonder what we’ll do tomorrow.