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!