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Posts Tagged ‘Zebra Swallowtail butterfly’

It is always special to get a shot of a Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus). Normally they are in constant motion, rarely perching for more than a split second. I spotted this one on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was struck by its pristine condition—so many butterflies that I see at this time of the year are tattered and faded, but still surviving.

I suspect that this one butterfly might have only recently emerged. According to information from the Maryland Biodiversity Project, Zebra Swallowtails in this area fly in several broods, from mid-April, early July, and again in early September.

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was really happy to be able to photograph this Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) last week in Prince William County as I was exploring a small pond with fellow photographer and blogger Walter Sanford. Quite often when I see one of these butterflies, it flits about and refuses to perch, but this one was quite cooperative.

Out of all of the different swallowtail butterflies in our area, the Zebra Swallowtails probably have the longest “tails.” Although this butterfly is in almost perfect condition, I couldn’t help but notice that one of its tails is already damaged and is shorter than the other one.

What is the purpose of these tails? According to the website bugunderglass.com, the tails are an “evolutionary feature. Birds love to eat butterflies and when they attack butterflies they go for the neck or body, which would be a clear-cut kill instead of a piece of wing. In response to this, swallowtails have evolved tail extensions that resemble their necks and body. Therefore, a bird will see these extensions as a “body or neck” and be directed away from the butterfly’s vital organs and fly away with a piece of wing, leaving the butterfly with its life.”

 

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was pleasantly surprised last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to spot a few Zebra Swallowtail butterflies (Eurytides marcellus), including this one that posed momentarily for me. Generally this butterfly species is associated with the pawpaw tree, on which its larvae feed exclusively, but this one apparently spotted something of interest in the dry vegetation at the edge of the trail and decided to investigate it.

It is so exciting to see familiar spring species begin to reappear one-by-one.

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Zebra Swallowtail butterflies (Protographium marcellus) are usually in constant motion, so I was excited on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when the one that I was chasing landed. My initial shot was the second one below that shows the pattern on this butterfly that is responsible for its name. I was then able to circle around and capture an eye-to-eye shot, one of my favorite shooting angles for insects, and it was a bonus that the butterfly had its wings fully extended.

If you look closely at the second shot, you will see that this butterfly is a survivor. Both of the “swallowtails” and the lower portion of one of the wings appear to be missing. As I have noted in recent postings, butterflies somehow manage to fly and do most of their normal activities despite significant wing damage. If you are interested in viewing an image of an intact Zebra Swallowtail, check out this 2017 posting that was entitled “Zebra Swallowtail.”

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Does the pressure of confinement/isolation/social distancing weigh you down? I know that I definitely feel that way at times. What I found on Friday morning, though, was that I felt totally free and uninhibited when I was chasing after this Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Protographium marcellus). From a distance I must have looked like a madman as I ran back and forth and in circles trying to stay close to this butterfly.

It was more than just hoping and passively waiting—I put all of my energy into my childlike desire to to get a closer look at this beautiful butterfly. Maybe one of the secrets to handling the stresses inherent in today’s crises is to seek pleasure in simple joyful activities, like chasing a butterfly.

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday I spotted this beautiful Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Protographium marcellus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Normally Zebra Swallowtails are very skittish and are in almost constant motion. This one, however, was so involved with the flower that it did not immediately fly away and allowed me to capture this image.

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted a small patch of milkweed while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this month, I stopped and waited. I knew that numerous butterflies are attracted to this plant. Before long, several butterflies in fact appeared.

Here are photos of two of them, both swallowtail butterflies. The first one, a Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus), appears to be in perfect condition. Its wings and “tails” are intact and its colors are vibrant. By contrast the second butterfly, a Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus), is clearly a veteran. There are chunks missing from its wings and its long beautiful swallowtails are gone.

Do you find one of the butterflies to be more inherently beautiful than the other? Here in the United States, we tend to worship beauty and a standard of supposed perfection. We are daily bombarded with advertising messages that tell us we can look young again, that we can cover up our imperfections. The current focus on selfies and dating apps that allow you to judge others with a swipe encourages a kind of narcissism and attention to superficial appearances that I personally find to be unhealthy.

I remember watching a video several years ago about photographing nature. The photographer encouraged viewers to photograph only perfect specimens of flowers and insects, following the lead of those who say that in order to create beautiful photographs, you need beautiful subjects.

The photos here are my response to that kind of thinking. There is an incredible beauty to be discovered in the ordinary, everyday subjects that surround us, full of imperfections and blemishes. Take a moment today to slow down and truly experience that beauty.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we move deeper into spring, more and more butterflies are starting to appear, like this beautiful Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus) that I spotted yesterday at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. Zebra Swallowtails are most often associated with pawpaw trees, which is helpful to know, though I must confess I don’t know how to identify a pawpaw tree. What I do know is that these butterflies are constantly on the move and fly in such an erratic way that I have trouble getting a decent photograph of one.

Yesterday I managed to get a shot of a Zebra Swallowtail when it paused momentarily at a small tree, perhaps a possible pawpaw. What I like about the shot is that it shows well the colors of the butterfly as well as its long “tails.” I could not decide how much to crop the image, which was taken from a pretty good distance away, so I am including tow versions of the image. Personally I am drawn most to the second one, but recognize that many folks may prefer the first versions, which draws you more quickly to the butterfly’s beautiful details.

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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One of the coolest looking butterflies in our area is the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus). In addition to having beautiful coloration, it has amazingly long “tails” that flutter when it is in flight. It is not a species that I see very often, so I will spend a lot of time chasing after one when I spot it, hoping, often in vain, that it will perch long enough for me to get a shot.

This Zebra Swallowtail, which I chased this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, was reasonably cooperative, though it refused to open its wings to give me a view of its entire wingspan.

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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