Posted by: ktzefr | August 3, 2011

A Kaleidoscope of Swallowtails

With the first blooms on my butterfly bush earlier in the summer the swallowtails returned.  Some pics and facts about these lovely fliers…

Swallowtail butterfly on butterfly bush; Photo:KFawcett


1)  States have flowers and flags and birds and…bugs?  The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the state insect of Virginia.  It’s also the state butterfly of Georgia, Delaware, and South Carolina.

The swallowtails love the tiny white flowers on the wild vines that cover my holly bushes…

2)  There are more than 500 species of Swallowtail and the “family” includes the largest butterflies in the world.

3)  The Swallowtail is different from all other butterflies in a couple of ways — they have a tail like the forked tail of some swallows and they have an organ called the osmeterium located behind the head that emits a smelly secretion when threatened.

This pretty one (below) is a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, known by the extra blue on the hind wings.  (Males have only a few spots of blue and orange.)

Swallowtail butterfly: Photo:KFawcett


4)  Swallowtails live everywhere on Earth except Antarctica.

5) Butterflies see a large spectrum of colors.  They see all the ones we see plus ultraviolet colors.   The common daisy may look white and yellow to us, but it has ultraviolet hues right outside the yellow center.  I wonder what else there is in nature all around us that we can’t see?

A group of butterflies is called by several different names — a kaleidoscope, which sounds like the multitude of colors that butterflies come in; a swarm, which sounds too much like bees to me; or a rabble!  A rabble, unfortunately, is also the name given for a “mob” or the “lowest, coarsest class of people.”  I can’t imagine why anyone would have attached this name to a…kaleidoscope…of butterflies. 



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