). 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.
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.
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.
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 (