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Summer Butterflies and Caterpillars in Georgia

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Giant Swallowtail in my backyard, June 2017, Snellville, Georgia

There have been many beautiful butterflies that I’ve seen here around Atlanta, Georgia this summer, but have been too busy to post until now.

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Great Spangled Fritillary in my backyard, August 2017, Snellville, Georgia

I try to look for and photograph butterflies in my area that I’ve not seen here before.

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Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars, Snellville, Georgia, August 2017

Included in this blog post are those butterflies that I haven’t seen in my area before, in my past 17 years of living here in Georgia.

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Purple Hairstreak butterfly, Gainesville, Georgia, June 2017

I’ve also included a picture of some swallowtail caterpillars, for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

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Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar, Snellville, Georgia, September 4, 2015

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar, Snellville, Georgia, September 4, 2015

This lovely critter was resting on the bricks near my garage when the daily temperatures were just starting to cool, back on September 4, 2015.  On further investigation, I counted 18 of these beautiful Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) caterpillars eating the leaves of a vine-type plant that was growing in the flower bed.

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly (Retrieved from pbase.com, October 9, 2015)

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly (Retrieved from pbase.com, October 9, 2015)

I hope some of the caterpillars survived to pupate because I did not see anymore of them there after one week.  They may have become dinner for some other creature…  These caterpillars are the type of which I observe most often in my area around Atlanta, Georgia.

Tiger and Skippers (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Silver-Spotted Skipper, Snellville, Georgia, August 13, 2014

Silver-Spotted Skipper, Snellville, Georgia, August 13, 2014

Probably the greatest number of butterflies that I have observed during the entire summer, I have seen in the past couple of days.  There are Tiger Swallowtails, Female Black Form Tiger Swallowtails, Silver-Spotted Skippers, and Orange Skippers flying about.  They all enjoy drinking the nectar from the many garden flowers in our yard.

Tiger Swallowtail, Snellville, Georgia, August 12, 2014

Tiger Swallowtail, Snellville, Georgia, August 12, 2014

While trying not to become dinner for the prevalent mosquito population, I snapped only a few pictures of the Tiger Swallowtail and two Silver-Spotted Skippers.  At one point while photographing the Tiger, there were three mosquitos on my legs, so I only got a couple of good photos of the butterfly.  Enjoy!

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

Eastern Black Swallowtail female in black form, July 10, 2014, Snellville, Georgia

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Female in Black Form, July 10, 2014, Snellville, Georgia

It has been so hot and dry here in the South this year that plants are withering away and tree roots are reaching toward the earth’s surface for any hint of water.  It has also been noticeably difficult for birds, butterflies, bees, and insects due to the lack of water, as I have seen relatively few of them this summer in comparison to past years.  There has been some rain and a few showers, but the heat dries up the rain and moisture very quickly.

Female Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly in Black Form on Star Gazer Lily, Snellville, Georgia, July 10, 2014

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly in Black Form on Star Gazer Lily, Snellville, Georgia, July 10, 2014

Due to these conditions, I was happy to see one female Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly in black form last week.  She was getting nectar from several Star Gazer Lilies.  It appeared that she had recently hatched from her chrysallis and was still heavy with unlaid eggs.  She was a beauty!

“Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar, September 23, 2013, Snellville, Georgia

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar, September 23, 2013, Snellville, Georgia

In our garden this week, we noticed several Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars (Papilio polyxenes).  They are beautiful!  I counted one dozen of them feeding on the parsley plants in our garden.  And, with one dozen of them eating those plants, their food supply is diminishing quickly!

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar, September 23, 2013, Snellville, Georgia

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar, September 23, 2013, Snellville, Georgia

At first upon seeing these caterpillars, I thought they might be those of the Anise Swallowtail, however I have never seen that type of swallowtail in the eastern part of the United States.  The Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar, however, is quite similar to the Anise Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio zelicaon), and can be easily deceiving in potentially confusing them with each other.

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillars, September 23, 2013, Snellville, Georgia

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillars, September 23, 2013, Snellville, Georgia

I am thrilled to have observed and photographed these caterpillars this week on our parsley plants, especially because birds, spiders, and/or wasps often prey on various caterpillars in our yard before they become adult butterflies or moths.  It was a real treat for my family to see and enjoy these lovely specimens!

“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.

“Butterflies that I’ve Never Before Seen in Georgia” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

This Spring and Summer of 2012, there are two butterflies that I saw flying around my neighborhood here in Georgia that I’ve never seen before.  In May 2012, I saw a Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus), and in late August and early September 2012, there was a Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius) that often visited the flowers in the yard. 

In 12 years of living in Georgia, I have never before had the pleasure of observing these two species of butterflies here.  As a girl, I had seen them flying about in Florida, and considered them somewhat more of tropical types of Lepidoptera, although they really are not true tropical butterflies.  It seems, however, that they may sometimes prefer habitats that are more hot and/or moist (wet and/or humid).

The Zebra Swallowtail has wings that are long, resembling triangles, with tails that are swordlike.  It’s colors include white to bluish-green with black bands and stripes.  It also has blue and red spots on it’s wings; and the sizes and colors of the butterfly vary with the spring and summer seasons.  The Zebra Swallowtail is commonly seen in Washington, DC and Virginia, though it’s range includes Ontario, Canada, the Lake States, Southern New England States, and along the Atlanta Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida (Pyle, p. 348). 

The Zebra Longwing has wings that are narrow and long, colored in black and banded with yellow stripes.  It also has red spots on the bases of it’s wings.  The habitat of the Zebra Longwing includes thick woods, forest edges, and hammocks.  It is the State butterfly of Florida, and ranges from South Carolina to Texas, south through Latin America and the West Indies, while also appearing west to Southern California and Colorado (Pyle, p. 541).

Both of these are beautiful butterflies, and it is has been a real treat to see them flying around here in Georgia this year!  I have wondered whether or not observing them in Georgia this year is a sign of climate change and the butterflies possibly becoming more common in this area and/or extending their habitats into places in which they are more rare or unusual.  It was so incredibly hot here this summer, I would suspect that the intense heat and global warming potentially influenced the ranges of these butterflies this year.

References

Pyle, Robert M. (1981).  The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf , Inc.

Zebra Longwing Butterfly.  “Welcome to Florida.”  September 16, 2012.  http://eikaiwa-blog.blogspot.com/2010/10/zebra-longwing.html.

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly.  “Arkansas State Parks Blog: Stories and Information from Arkansas State Parks.”  September 16, 2012.  http://arkansasstateparks.wordpress.com/category/wildlife/butterflies/.

“Tiger Swallowtail Duo” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies with Bumblebee, Georgia, USA, September 2012

There was a beautiful duo of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies alight on the same butterfly bush flower this morning, along with a bumblebee, so I just had to share this photo.  When I had looked outside, there were originally three Tiger Swallowtails on this same flower, but by the time I got outside, the third was already flying around the yard.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies, Georgia, USA, September 2012

There have been many Tiger Swallowtails and Black Form Tiger Swallowtails, as well as Gulf Fritillaries, Skippers, Sulphurs, Buckeyes, and Painted Ladies flying around the flowers in the past two to three weeks.  I have also seen two butterflies of a more tropical variety, about which I will devote my next post.  Enjoy!

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!