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Posts Tagged ‘Zebra Swallowtail’

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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As I was exploring Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge yesterday afternoon, Zebra Swallowtail butterflies (Protographium marcellus) kept fluttering by me. Occasionally one would perch for a moment  within range and I was able to get a few shots.

I really love the coloration and the shape of this beautiful butterfly that I rarely see. Although this butterfly is often associated with pawpaw trees, the ones that I saw perched mostly on the ground and seem to be obtaining either water or minerals.

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was out searching for dragonflies in the heat of the midday sun, a butterfly came fluttering into view. I haven’t seen many large butterflies yet this spring, so I followed after it, trying to identify it. When the butterfly paused for a moment to feed on one plant, I scrambled to get a shot.

The light was harsh and coming from a bad direction, but my long telephoto showed me clearly that it was a swallowtail butterfly, but definitely not at all colored like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails that I often see during the summer. The markings were distinctive enough that it was easy to determine later that it is a Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus), a species that I had never before encountered.

Multiple sources indicate that the Zebra Swallowtail is closely associated with the pawpaw tree, though I don’t know enough about trees and blossoms to determine if that is the plant on which this butterfly was feeding.

As I was poking about on the internet, I also learned from ereferencedesk.com that in 1995 the Zebra Swallowtail was designated as the official state butterfly of Tennessee. I must confess that I didn’t know that states have official butterflies.

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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