Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Swallowtail Butterflies

Posted by  //  June 17, 2022  //  Articles, Creature Feature

The Swallowtail butterfly family has several members, including the Tiger Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail and Spicebush Swallowtail. They are large, beautiful, and vibrant butterflies that capture both our eye and appreciation when we encounter them gracefully moving from flower to flower. They are aptly named for the long projections at the base of their hind wings that resemble a swallow‘s tail.

Swallowtail butterflies typically fly with slow wingbeats as they forage on taller flowers, but when spooked, these big beauties can fly away fast on their strong wings, often retreating to tree tops.  In fact, most swallowtail varieties prefer to have trees nearby to where they feed.

Male swallowtail butterflies like to visit puddles.  The nutrients they glean from the puddles and moist areas support their reproductive needs. They may gather around such wet places in numbers in a behavior called “puddling.”  Female swallowtails search for the right plants to lay their eggs on such as pawpaw, prickly ash, wild carrot, dill, sassafras and spicebush, to name just a handful. They use scent and taste, as well as an ability to recognize leaf shapes, to determine the correct host plants.

Margie Manthey

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