Archive | July 2012

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly – Female Black Form (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Female Black Form, Georgia, USA, July 24, 2012

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!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Female Black Form, Georgia, USA, July 24, 2012

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. 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Female Black Form, Georgia, USA, July 24, 2012

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.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Female Black Form, Georgia, USA, July 24, 2012

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!


“How to Prepare Butterflies and Moths for Display the Economical Way” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Partial Display of Moths, Collected in North Carolina and Florida, 2006

Pictured above is a photo that represents half of one of my Lepidoptera display cases; I have 13 cases in all.  I have specificially included this photo here to reflect the display of butterflies and/or moths.  In this photo are moths that I collected from Florida and – mostly – North Carolina in 2006. 

Included in the photo of my display are twelve Regal Moths (also known as Royal Walnut Moths, Citheronia regalis), two Waved Sphinx Moths (Ceratomia undulosa), one Small-Eyed Sphinx Moth (Paonias myops), one Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis), one Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda), one Ornate Tiger Moth (also known as Virgo Moth, Apantesis ornata), one Black Witch (also known as Giant Noctuid, Ascalapha odorata), and two Io Moths (Automeris io).   I have well-preserved them by placing many moth balls at the bottom of the display case to ward off Lepidoptera-eating pests.  And, I replace the moth balls in each case about twice each year for that purpose.

Styrofoam Spreading Board with Pinned Regal Moths, July 2012

When I was a kid and my entomology collecting interest was in full swing, my dad made me an “official” Lepidoptera spreading board.  It was a very scientific “board” that was made of two boards of soft wood, however even the softest wood was not very soft.  The two boards were arranged so that they were almost immovable, making it difficult to spread the wings of a butterfly or moth, as well as challenging to maintain the spread.  That was the fancy spreading board.

Having come a long way in collecting during the past 35 years, I now use styrofoam boards to spread the wings of butterflies and moths – yes, styrofoam boards!  And, let me say, they are absolutely the best type of spreading board one can get for the ease and pliability of use, as well as the economical cost. 

For anyone who is a beginning collector, I highly recommend the use of styrofoam boards for Lepidoptera wing-spreading as the one and only choice.  The best type of styrofoam board is similar to that pictured above, being about 12″x12″x2″.  This is because one can use scissors to carve out spaces on the styrofoam’s surface in which to place the pinned specimens.  Also, a thick board serves as protection from getting poked by the pins, since they don’t go all the way through the bottom of the board.

Also notice at the bottom, right-hand corner of the spreading board in the above-photo that there are several specialty mounting pins.  These are pins that one can purchase from an insect, entomology, or science-related company.  They come in various strengths and sizes, and are specially-coated to prevent them from rusting.  Do not use common, everyday metal pins on which to preserve insect specimens of any kind because they do rust over a period of time.

In the photo of the spreading board are two Regal moths that I collected recently from North Carolina on July 1, 2012.  Each moth is pinned using a specialty pin, and wings have been spread and allowed to dry in place for 2.5 weeks.  I have used strips of tissue paper, pinned into place, to maintain the “spread” of the moth’s wings. 

Regal Moth with Wings Setting in Preparation for Display, July 2012

 A collector should allow a butterfly’s or moth’s wings to dry for at least two weeks or more to ensure hardening, and to prevent the wings from prematurely drooping due to not having completely hardened into place.  Sometimes, it is challenging to be patient and wait several days for the butterfly’s or moth’s wings to dry, but doing so is well-worth the wait and prevents the problematic wing-sag from occurring. 

Regal Moths, North Carolina, USA, July 1, 2012

And, there you have it – see the above photo within this article to observe how beautifully these Regal Moth specimens have turned out for display!  The wings of these specimens are not perfectly-placed and have minor areas of damage, however they will be just fine for my collection!

“Painted Lady Picnic” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Painted Lady Butterfly, Georgia, USA, July 9, 2012

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. 

Painted Lady Butterfly, Georgia, USA, July 9, 2012

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. 

Painted Lady Butterfly, Georgia, USA, July 9, 2012

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.

Painted Lady Butterfly, Georgia, USA, July 9, 2012

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.