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Posts Tagged ‘black swallowtail’

Although I did a posting fairly recently featuring a Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes), I like this image so much that I decided to give you another look at this striking species. I spotted this beautiful butterfly last Sunday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it was gather nectar from some kind of thistle flower. As I mentioned in the previous posting, you can distinguish this butterfly from similar species by the orange dot on the lower wing with a black dot inside of it.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In our area black-colored swallowtails also include dark morph Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, and Pipevine Swallowtails, so identification can be a bit tricky.

I can tell, however, that this butterfly is a Black Swallowtail because it is the only one of the dark swallowtails with a black dot inside of an orange dot on the edge of the wings near the body, a characteristic that you can see in the photo below. Unlike most of the butterflies that I have photographed, this one is not actively feeding, so its proboscis is curled up, rather being extended. If you double-click on the image, you can get a closer look at the curled-up proboscis and other wonderful details of this beautiful Black Swallowtail butterfly.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was really thrilled to spot this spectacular Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) last week as it fed on some kind of thistle plant at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There are several dark swallowtail species in our area and I often have trouble telling them apart. In this case, though, I could see the distinctive back dot inside the orange dot which is telltale sign that this is Black Swallowtail. I highly recommend a helpful posting by Louisiana Naturalist that points out way to distinguish among four dark swallowtails—it is a reference that I repeatedly return to when I have a question about a dark swallowtail.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This spectacular Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) spread its wings wide and seemed to be posing for fellow wildlife enthusiast Walter Sanford and for me as we explored Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past weekend. We have a number of different dark-colored swallowtail butterflies in our region, including the black morph of the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, the Pipevine Swallowtail, and the Spicebush Swallowtail, but this is the only place that I have encountered the Black Swallowtail.

Whenever I photograph a swallowtail that is black, I will usually refer to a very helpful blog posting by Louisiana Naturalist that compares some of the identification features of the four different dark swallowtails.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the coolest things about female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus) is that they come in two distinctly different colors, black and yellow. According to Wikipedia, that characteristic makes them dimorphic. I’m no scientist, so I had to do some research  to see what “dimorphic” means. If I understand it right, it means that there are two different phenotypes (called morphs) that exist in the same population of a species and they have to be in the same habitat at the same time to qualify.

I was thrilled yesterday to observe and photograph both variants at a local garden. The yellow ones resemble the male, although the male is only yellow and black and has no additional orange and blue markings. I have seen a lot of the yellow female swallowtails this summer. The black swallowtails, which have black bodies as well as black wings, seem to be more rare, or at least I have seen them only rarely this summer.

Which one is more beautiful? I’ll leave that call to each of you.

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Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (black variant) UPDATE in 2020: I think that I misidentified this as an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and now think it might be a Black Swallowtail, though the angle keeps me from being sure about the identification

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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