Friday, September 07, 2007

Black Swallowtail

Following a fluttering butterfly about, through thistles and brambles trying to identify it, is not made any easier by the mimics. Butterflies don't mimic other species of butterflies out of admiration; it's a matter of survival. The two most well-known butterflies that are copied are the pipevine swallowtail and the monarch. Both of these butterflies protect themselves by having eaten toxic or distasteful plants when they were caterpillars. The mimics have realized they don't have to eat poisonous plants; they just have to look like they do... they copy the appearance of the monarch and pipevine butterflies, even though their caterpillars spent their days eating luscious clover and coreopsis. The monarch is copied by the viceroy, and the pipevine works so hard at being toxic that it has no less than five mimics: the spicebush swallowtail and the black swallowtail are two close copiers. The tiger swallowtail female is normally as yellow as a buttercup, but in geographic areas where its occurrence overlaps with the pipevine it exists in a dark form like its toxic cousin. The red spotted purple and diana fritillary aren't even swallowtails, but also hop on the bandwagon, minus the tails (the fritillary is dimorphic, where the male and female look quite unalike; the male looks rather like the previously pictured great spangled fritillary, and the female looks like a big, blue pipevine).
Well, I'm calling the above butterfly a male black swallowtail... I think.
Posted by Picasa

And I'd forgotten that the female Black Swallowtail has the blue scaling on the hindwing... so I called the one I saw 3 days ago a Spicebush Swallowtail. I'm sure I was wrong, now that I look in my book.

I have two nice, healthy parsley plants in my flower bed. I continue to look for the larvae, but so far... in vain.

My son has mentioned the possiblity of my having seen the black female Tiger Swallowtail, but (again referring to my book) I read that she usually shows a shadow of the tiger stripes, etc. She does show a lot of blue, however.

Isn't this fun? :-)
Marvelous creature!!! I really didn't think about looking at the different sexes.. Thanks for the good information.
Hello! I'm new to the state and have started thinking about gardening (a bit late in the season, perhaps). I found your blog through my searches for info, and perhaps you can answer this general newbie question: is it too early to plant bulbs? If not,when is the proper time to plant bulbs here? I bought some tulip, crocus, and iris bulbs this weekend and am excited to get them in the ground, but perhaps I need to wait until October? (I've moved from the west, where we planted in September.)

Thanks for the lovely photos--I'm enjoying perusing your posts!
Shady... yah, there's more blue on most of the other pipevine types.

DF... most of the butterflies have at least some subtle differences in the sexes... make it interesting, since they won't hold still.

Sheepy... You can plant them as soon as you can get your hands on them, until the ground freezes up ...sooner the better with one slight caveat: squirrels and ground squirrels love crocus bulbs and the longer they sit there right under the surface in loose, freshly dug soil, the more likely they are to get dug up and eaten. If you plant them early, consider covering or enclosing with some chicken wire.By the way, I peeked at your profile and notice you like Lumberjacks and Dostoevsky; you sound like a great chick... let me officially welcome you to the state: we can always use more great chicks!

Awesome photo and thanks for the info. Well done!
Thanks for the info! I didn't realize squirrels like to eat them--perhaps I shouldn't scold my silly dog as much when he's trying to herd them back into their trees when I take him out. :) Or maybe I'll let them continue to steal from our bird feeders. Why work to dig up bulbs when they can grow fat eating from such an easily-attainable, 24 hour snack source? At least, that's how I would reason, if I was a squirrel.

Iowa seems really nice, and I'm happy to be here! Thanks so much!
Nice photos! I have become more interested in caterpillars since following several garden blogs this year. This led me to caterpillar identification websites - have you seen the hawk moth caterpillar's version of mimicry? It looks like a venomous snake. Very scary! I had no idea such a thing existed!
Gardenista... I've only seen it in pictures (looks scary).
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?