Butterflies apparently like purple coneflowers (another post coming soon on these). I was out looking at the flowers the other day and much to my surprise saw one of the most beautiful butterflies I’ve ever seen.
It turns out to be an Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). (I’m getting into this scientific name thing, by the way, if you haven’t noticed). I so wished I would have had one of Steve’s “real” cameras in hand, but at least I had our point and shoot which is actually what I’ve used to take most of the photos on this site so far. I’ve learned to never go outside without a camera of some sort, sometimes it’s the iPhone, which has to be used for something (besides playing Angry Birds) since there’s zero bars out here!
It turns out that the female of this species can morph into a black version of itself to mimic the Pipevine swallowtail butterfly in areas where those are present. I believe this is a self-defense mechanism because I read that the Pipevine is poisonous and that normally the yellow butterfly has many bird predators. They also like to lay their eggs on Sassafrass trees, among others, which we have in abundance (maybe the subject for yet another post).
I also saw this orange butterfly with black markings and white spots, which I believe to be a Great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele). There are many varieties of fritillary, all orange with black and white markings, making it difficult to differentiate sometimes. The caterpillars eat wild violet in the spring, which we have in abundance as well, so hopefully they’ll continue to be around each year.
I’m used to seeing mostly monarchs where we used to live, so this is an exciting change of pace. In the spring I frequently saw lots of black/irridescent blue butterflies which I haven’t been able to put a name to yet. They were the prettiest before the swallowtail came along!
It’s completely amazing that (generally ugly) caterpillars transform into such graceful and beautiful flyers.