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“Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly Clusters” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Cluster of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies, Cherokee, North Carolina, USA, July 2010

Cluster of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies, Cherokee, North Carolina, USA, July 2010

It is unusual and a special treat to see clusters of any type of butterflies in one’s life.  The photographs in this article are those that I took in July 2010 in Cherokee, North Carolina of clusters of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies (Battus philenor).  These butterflies were gathered at a roadside, obtaining moisture from the dirt and stones after a rain shower.  I drove by them in my travels, and turned around to view and observe them, getting the pictures that I’ve included here. 

Cluster of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies in Cherokee, North Carolina, USA, July 2010

Cluster of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies in Cherokee, North Carolina, USA, July 2010

Pipevine Swallowtails are commonly found in North and Central America.  They are especially numerous in North Carolina, with their larvae feeding on plant species of Aristolochia.  These are poisonous plant species, making the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly and it’s larvae poisonous.  Birds and other natural predators leave them alone, and therefore, they thrive, particularly in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.

Cluster of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies, Cherokee, North Carolina, USA, July 2010

Cluster of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies, Cherokee, North Carolina, USA, July 2010

Pipevine Swallowtails are black with iridescent dark blue hind wings. The Pipevines are beautiful, fluttery butteflies that really catch one’s eye due to the bright iridescence of their hind wings. Their wingspan is generally about 3″ to 3.5″ in length.  The butterflies and their larvae can be found throughout the summer months, particularly in the Blue Ridge Mountains.


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!

“Tomato Hornworm Fun” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son with Tomato Hornworm Crawling on his Shirt, Georgia, USA, Summer 2011

Manduca inquemaculata, or the tomato hornworm, is a large green caterpillar, the larvae of sphinx or hawk moths.  Tomato hornworms eat the foliage of tomato or tobacco plants, and are sometimes confused with tobacco hornworms since they look very similar to each other. 

During the summer of 2011, there were several tomato hornworms that fed on the foliage of our tomato plants in Georgia.  We purposely did not put any form of insecticides or insect powders on the tomato plants, just so the tomato hornworms would have a nice feast.  By the end of the summer, there were at least five tomato hornworms feasting on our tomato plants.  I also had the pleasure of taking two of them for “Show and Tell” in my son’s second grade class at his school in August 2011, later releasing them back onto the garden tomato plants.

One evening, shortly after ceasing to see the tomato hornworm larvae anymore, and assuming they had pupated, I happened to witness a large female praying mantis feeding on a tomato hornworm sphinx moth that she had caught.  She had adeptly caught the moth while it was feeding on the nectar of a flower, holding it with her “praying” front legs.  When she had finished eating it, she left only the wings that settled on the ground.

Pictured above is a photo of my son with one of the tomato hornworm “pets” that we lovingly observed, cared for, and “adopted” during the summer of 2011.  I had placed the caterpillar on his shirt, and it felt ticklish to him as it crawled upward on his clothing.  We had great fun with our tomato hornworm caterpillars last summer!

Tomato Hornworm Moth in my Lepidoptera Collection, near Statesville, North Carolina, Summer 2005

Pictured above is a tomato hornworm moth from my own personal Lepidoptera collection.  It is one that I caught near Statesville, North Carolina in the summer of 2005.  It is impressive and beautiful with it’s vivid coloring and bright orange body spots.

Welcome to Lepidoptera Lovers! By Michele Babcock-Nice

Buckeye Butterfly, Georgia, USA, 2010

This blog is focused toward anyone who enjoys Lepidoptera – butterflies and moths!  This blog is also associated with the LinkedIn group, “Lepidoptera Lovers.”  Therefore, Lepidoptera Lovers is for all those who enjoy communicating, sharing information, becoming more educated, increasing their appreciation, and networking about Lepidoptera!  All Lepidoptera lovers are welcome.

There are entomology-related group(s) in LinkedIn (as of May 2012), though they are not specific to Lepidoptera – my area of love and interest in insects.  There are also two other current and specific Lepidoptera-related and/or butterfly-related groups in LinkedIn (as of May 2012), though their activity is low.

Gulf Fritillary, Georgia, USA, 2010

“Lepidoptera Lovers” on WordPress aims at creating, encouraging, promoting, and providing  educational, communicative, and interactive blog posts between people who love and/or enjoy butterflies and moths.  Issues about eggs, caterpillars, chrysallises, and and pupae are also acceptable for posting, discussion, communication, and networking, as they relate to butterflies and moths.

I have been a collector of insects – mostly butterflies and moths – since I was about 7 or 8 years old.  As I have gotten older, I have also become a Lepidoptera photographer.  Photos posted in this “Lepidoptera Lovers” blog, therefore, are those that I took, except only where specifically referenced and identified with the source.  Rather than capture butterflies and moths, physically, I now mostly capture them in photographs! 

Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush, Georgia, USA, 2010

I am fascinated by the beauty and movement of these beautiful creatures – butterflies and moths.  They bring so much beauty to our world.  They are many of God’s wondrous miracles, adding to the enjoyable beauty of our lives. 

Thank you for your interest, and welcome to my blog!