Facts about swallowtail butterflies and more photos below.
Facts about the Swallow-Tail Butterfly
The swallowtail butterflies have returned this season and spend most of their time on the cone flowers and buddleia (shown below).
The short ‘tails’ on the hind-wings is where this beautiful butterfly takes it’s name.
Males and females often have completely different wing colors and patterns.
There are over 500 species of Swallowtail butterfly worldwide.
The caterpillar exudes unpleasant chemicals from a forked gland to protect itself.
Wingspan: 4.4 – 20 cm; Caterpillar length: 6 – 7 cm
Number of eggs: 100 – 200
Caterpillar stage: Approx 30 days
Lifespan: A few weeks as an adult
This Swallowtail feeds on the buddleia (also called a butterfly bush)
I notice they are wary and flutter off when I get too close.
Adult butterflies can feed on the sugary flower nectar which it sips by extending its long, curled tongue into flowers. Each of its eyes consists of hundreds of facets, each with a tiny lens. The compound eye cannot create a single, focused image, but it can detect movement from any angle.
The chrysalis is spun by the caterpillar itself before sealing itself inside. The chrysalis can sealed so much that it can even survive underwater.
When at rest, the butterfly holds its wings together. It opens them at brief intervals as to reveal a brightly colored spot on each hind-wing; these spots, to predators, look like the eyes of a much larger animal, hence protecting the butterfly.
Since the lifespan of the swallowtail butterfly is fairly short, the adult male tries to find a mate a quickly as possible. When he succeeds, the pair begin to court briefly, fluttering around each other, before mating. Mating can take up to 45 minutes while the male fertilizes the eggs of the female.
Not much sooner after, the female lays her eggs. 10 days later, the eggs hatch into caterpillars, which feed rapidly. Baby caterpillars molt their skins five times before reaching full size which takes about a month.
The caterpillars usually eat their empty egg-shell, then they devour the leaves of fennel or milk parsley for several weeks before changing into a pupa.
Swallowtail butterflies continue to flutter their wings even after landing on a stem to feed. This hovering helps to support its weight on fragile, delicate flowers.
Because of their large wingspan, the swallowtail butterfly can fly very fast. Even so, compared to other butterflies, they flap their wings very slowly.
The swallowtail’s sense of taste is located at the ends of its legs, where tiny organs recognize sweet substances.