Yesterday – July 24, 2012 – there was a pair of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) of the Female Black Form feasting on the nectar of our backyard garden flowers. The one pictured in my photos in this blog enjoyed remaining on the flowers for much of the day. She was very large, having a wingspan of between 4″-5,” I would estimate. This butterfly was so big, she could have initally been mistaken for a bird or bat, if one only caught a quick glimpse. She was certainly a beauty to behold!
When I was a kid, I always thought that this Female Black Form of the Tiger Swallowtail was a Black Swallowtail. Educating myself with my own studies and interest in entomology and Lepidoptera, I believed this butterfly was another beautiful type of Black Swallowtail. As I got older, I realized that this Black Female Form appeared very much like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and I believed that I may have come across a new species! On continuing to research this butterfly, I finally found that I had not discovered a new species, but was graced with the presence of a morphed form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
The Female Black Form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail mimics and is similar to the Pipevine Swallowtail, and is generally found where pipevine grows. That would make sense in my area since pipevine grows here in Georgia, and Pipevine Swallowtails are present here, as well. I have found that Pipevine Swallowtails, however, are more common in heavily-wooded and forested areas, particularly those of the North Georgia Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, and Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, where they are annually-numerous.
While this lovely beauty of a butterfly laid claim to the backyard garden flowers, yesterday, I have not seen her again today as I had expected. I hope that she is feasting, enjoyably, elsewhere today, and that a predator has not made a meal out of her. She was in perfect condition when I observed her, and I expect that she had only just recently hatched from her chrysalis. By the size of her body, one could also guess that she had not yet laid her eggs, either. It was wonderful to see and photograph this beautiful butterfly!
I wish I had a better camera that would take photographs that were more clear, precise, and detailed. With my small camera, I have to zoom-in from a distance to get close-up shots of butterflies, such as that of this Painted Lady, or Vanessa cardui. Taking about 80 photographs of the Painted Lady, flitting about the garden flowers and drinking nectar, I would estimate that about six pictures turned out with enough crispness and clarity to consider including in this blog post.
At any rate, butterfly watching is an exciting and interesting pastime for me. Whether or not my photographs turn out really well, I enjoy observing the butterflies darting from flower to flower, completely engrossed in drinking the precious nectar on these extremely hot days of summer. All of the photos in this blog post, I took on July 9; and during the same week, I observed the most butterflies of the year – so far – floating about. Included in those I saw were this Painted Lady, as well as several Tiger Swallowtails, a Black Swallowtail, a Cabbage Butterfly, and many orange Skippers.
I enjoy observing the Painted Lady as it flies because it’s movements are so quick, pointed, and sometimes even seem erratic. It generally flies so quickly that one may find it difficult to categorize while zooming around in the air. In flight, it’s appearance resembles that of the Question Mark and Red Admiral. One may have to wait until it lands before making the ultimate determination of it’s classification.
So, for a couple of weeks, this Painted Lady is our resident butterfly, picnicing in the backyard. I have seen it nearly each day for more than the past week, enjoying the flowers’ sweet juice. It is a beautiful and welcome flower garden visitor, and is one of the important reasons for planting the flowers. Attracting many and various types of butterflies, including this Painted Lady, is a satisfying and fulfilling activity. And, it allows me to “butterfly watch” and take as many photos as I like, even though only a few have any worth.