Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Up Close & Personal With the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

It's always good to have your camera nearby, and it's even better when it has a macro function (ability to take extreme clear closeup images).

Though I've probably seen a million of these beautiful butterflies in my lifetime, for some reason I've never had an inclination to look at one of these at close range. Yesterday, for some odd reason, I became fixated on this eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly. And I decided to start a little photo shoot.
As usual, after taking my pictures, I went inside to "develop" (download & edit) my digital photographs and do research on this common, yet remarkably beautiful butterfly.

All my life I had simply known & described this butterfly as large, colorful, and/or beautiful without ever knowing its name.

With a little online research I come to find that it's called the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.
  • "Eastern," because it's a native butterfly primarily found in the eastern United States (see range map below).
  • "Tiger," because of the distinct tiger-like markings, especially found on the male.
  • "Swallowtail," because their long "tail" on their hind wings is similar to that of swallows (birds).
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (known scientifically as papilio glaucus) is not considered to be a threatened species, due to its ability to live nearly everywhere that some foliage or forestation is present. This includes rural fields & woodlands, rivers & creeks, roadsides & gardens, and even in many urban locations.

It's so popular that four states (South Carolina, George, Delaware & Alabama) have named this butterfly their official state butterfly. Virginia (my state) decided to go one step further, labeling it their official state insect.
Known as powerful, quick & strong fliers, adults can frequently be seen above tree canopies. With their colorful appearance and wide wing span between 3 & 5 1/2 inches, they are hard to miss.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly is diurnal (only active during the day). Though generally solitary, males are known to congregate in "puddling," where they huddle near each other around puddles, mud or damp rocks. These activities are believed to help them extract necessary amino acids & sodium ions beneficial for reproduction.
Adults have a wide range of food sources, but prefer nectar from sturdy plants having pink or red flowers. But they also may feed on urine or dung from other insects or animals.

To eat food, it uses a long & flexible tube-like proboscis tongue (as seen clearly in my picture below) to sip liquids. This proboscis can coil & uncoil as needed.
The lifespan of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly extends from Spring through Fall, during which time they produce two or three broods (two in northern climates - where lifespan is slightly shorter, and three farther south).

As with most butterflies, birds are their chief predator. In caterpillar stage, squirrels, raccoons & shrews (among others) may find them appetizing.

Further research:
Enchanted Learning


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