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Swallowtail Butterfly

swallowtail-butterfly-bug-book

Color

Beauty in flight. This group includes some of the largest and most strikingly colored butterflies. The tiger swallowtail is brightly colored with yellow and black. The black swallowtail is black with 2 rows of yellow spots around wing margins. The zebra swallowtail is pale greenish with black stripes. Again, with more than 550 species, the range of colors is amazing.

Characteristics

Simply put — gorgeous. Outsized, prominently marked butterflies. The adults are often tailed like the forked tail of some swallows, giving the insect its name.

The hind wings usually display elongated tails that are believed to mimic antennae, distracting predators from more crucial body parts. It is not uncommon to see swallowtail butterflies with one or both tails missing, probably for this reason.

Where Found

Widely distributed around the world. Although the majority of swallowtails are found in tropical areas, they live on all continents except Antarctica.

Food

Adults feed on flower nectar. Caterpillars feed on a variety of woody and herbaceous plants, depending on the species.

Biology

Like all butterflies, Swallowtails undergo a complete metamorphosis. The life cycle has four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

  • Egg — It takes 3-5 days for eggs to hatch.
  • Larva — The caterpillar has five instars.
  • Pupa — The chrysalis stage lasts 9-11 days, or over winter.
  • Adult — Northern areas have 1-2 generations; southern areas may have three.

The adult female lays her fertilized eggs on the host plant, and one instar after another feeds voraciously on the host plant, shedding its skin to allow room for growth of the next instar, until the full grown caterpillar is ready to enter the chrysalis stage. Larvae have antennae-like structures called osmeteria behind the head that they can extrude, at the same time emitting pungent chemicals, to deter predators. All North American species overwinter as pupae.

Invasion

We should be so lucky.