Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Swallowtail Butterflies

Rain and wind and unseasonal cool weather has delayed the return of butterflies to the garden. Today I saw one cabbage looper. Meanwhile I thought about the different Swallowtails that we see through the season. At least six different swallowtails (Tiger, Zebra, Giant, Palamedes, Spicebush, Black Swallowtails) turn up in my garden at varying times during the summer. Most are Papilio species.

One of my favs is the Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) which is the state butterfly of Tennessee.
Last summer I was delighted to see 3 Zebras at one time, a record for my garden. They are one of the most delightful to watch and on occasion will 'pose' for pics.

Our Georgia state butterfly along with Delaware and South Carolina is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). The Eastern Swallowtail is the state insect of Virginia. The Oregon Swallowtail is the state butterfly of Oregon. Spicebush swallowtail is the state butterfly of Mississippi.   A common trait is extensions at the rear end of the wings, which resemble the tails of swallows.

Another of my favorites is the Palamedes Swallowtail, found in the coastal plains of the southeastern states from Virginia to Louisiana. Palamedes resembles the Giant Swallowtail but smaller. Mimicry is common among butterflies. A good butterfly book or reliable online sources are needed to see the fine points that separate the different species.

Porterweed is one of the most popular nectar flowers in my summer garden.

Swallowtails are found all over the world in climates that are not too cold or too hot for their survival. The Schaus Swallowtail is said to be found in tropical Florida, Europe and Asia. South Africa has several Swallowtails.

For your entertainment, the 'Swallowtail Jig' performed on the harmonica by an unassuming young man who obviously enjoys his music.

Swallowtail Jig

My previous blog post discussed plantings and other ways to attract Butterflies. Swallowtails are one  of many groups of butterflies that I hope to attract. At times they are the most prolific.

Does your garden entertain Swallowtails at various times of the year?


  1. I rarely see swallowtails in my gardens, but I did see one the other day!

  2. Swallowtails do come around our garden once in a while .. really beautiful this butterfly. The tail is exotic!


  3. How wonderful that you can butterflies visting your garden! I too have porterweed planted in the garden, and other butterfly loving plants. But I have not seen the butterflies visiting yet. Do you know if they only visit for certain time of the day?

  4. I believe that Swallowtails are my favorite type of butterfly. I did not know that states had state butterflies.

  5. I have Swallowtails visit here, but I have only seen one this year. My Salvia's are blooming now so hopefully more will show up soon.

    You got some great shots of them!

  6. I was so excited yesterday to see the first Tiger Swallowtail in a long time but he didn't stay long.
    I have been seeing what I think is Spicebush Swallowtails. I got a couple of pictures of them. They were favoring lunaria but the Tiger was on the snowball bush.

  7. I've seen many swallowtails in my garden the last couple of summers - and you are right, they sometimes seem to pose for pictures!

  8. What wonderful creatures! Thanks for the collages Nell Jean! It's too cold here yet for butterflies.

  9. I noticed many butterflies in the garden today. From the tiny little sulphurs to the swallowtails.

  10. We do have swallowtails, large, but not as multicoloured as yours. Seems like I am the only one on your poll to grow Clerodendron. Beautiful open faced two tone blue flowers! Almost like a butterfly.

  11. I grow bronze fennel for the BSTs. Have lots of Tigers and such, too. I haven't had a Zebra here, but I'm adding sand to a shallow bird bath...don't know if that will be enough to attract them since there are no paw-paws around here.

  12. I have Swallowtails here but you have a couple that i never see. They are really enjoying your Porterweed.
    Wonderful pictures Nell Jean.

  13. Thanks for sharing your knowledge about butterflies. Swallowtails are my favorite, and they love my phlox. But I haven't seen any yet this spring.

  14. No Swallowtails yet around here, but it could be a little cold for them just yet. Beautiful pictures of them though- thanks for a preview of what is to come!


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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