Sunday, May 10, 2015

HumBug: Tigers by the Tail

Posted By on Sun, May 10, 2015 at 3:05 PM

click to enlarge A perfect Tiger Swallowtail. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A perfect Tiger Swallowtail.
Looking out my window today I saw a happy and familiar sight, the instantly recognizable large, yellow and black striped butterfly, the Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus). The family papilio includes the zebra, black, spicebush, anise, pipevine and pale swallowtails. The tiger is the largest and most common of them all with a wingspan of 4 or 5 inches.
Their larvae get pretty big and are smooth and brown with a yellow and black stripe across their bodies just behind their head and colorful eyespots. They feed on cottonwood, willow, quaking aspen, alder, maple, sycamore, hoptree, plum, ash and possibly other trees as well.

click to enlarge A scrappy little survivor missing its tails. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A scrappy little survivor missing its tails.
Camera in hand, I went out to take a few shots of this cheerful visitor, despite having many already. Lining up for the first picture I noticed the “swallow tails” were missing along with a good bit of both hind wings. This is not uncommon — a bug's life is not an easy one. Something, most likely a bird, ripped off those pieces. Despite the damage, it managed to flit gracefully from one buckeye flower to another, sipping nectar through its long, slender, tubular proboscis, which, when not in use, is coiled up neatly like a watch spring. The adults don't seem picky at all about the flowers on which they feed, even occasionally trying plastic ones.

click to enlarge Stopping for a sip at a hummingbird feeder. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Stopping for a sip at a hummingbird feeder.
Although I haven't yet managed to get a photo of this species' larvae, last year I did manage to get a great closeup set of their close relative the Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon). Like all swallowtails, when threatened these caterpillars suddenly evert “stinkhorns” (osmeteria) which give off an unpleasant odor.
 
click to enlarge An Anise Swallowtail larva busts out its stinkhorns.
  • An Anise Swallowtail larva busts out its stinkhorns.

  • Pin It
  • StumbleUpon
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

more from the author

Latest in News Blog

© 2016 The North Coast Journal Weekly

Website powered by Foundation

humboldt