Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Banner Swallowtail Year!

It was back in 2001 the last time we had a banner year with Eastern Tiger Swallowtails. The Durham Butterfly Count tallied 1800 Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in 2001, so years we are lucky to get 50. On Monday Meg and I counted 21 Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in our garden. I believe that is a new record here. The flowers they are using here in the garden are Butterfly Bush, Phlox, Joe-pye-weed and Miss Huff Lantana.

I have noticed two different blogs, well actually three blogs that recently got the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail mixed up with the Spicebush Swallowtail. You can check out the links I just posted in the last sentence or read on.
I'm giving you this from my shoulder, a photo I took on my birthday of a dark form female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Notice the tiger stripes on the forewings is an easy field mark. This dark tiger got stuck inside our screened porch and I caught it barehanded and took it outside to be released. It spent 10 minutes checking me out before it flew off.

Here is the dark form female tiger on my finger!
The photo below is where people get mixed up.

This is a male Spicebush Swallowtail.
Notice the large blue-green roundish spots near the marginal edges of the hindwings. It does look a good bit like the dark form female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

The normal female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying Joe-pye-weed.
Notice the blue in the hindwings, this is how you tell the females from the males

Here is a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on my phlox!
Note the absence of blue on the hindwings

This Monarch was on Joe-pye-weed at the butterfly garden in Little River park about two miles from here. Pretty happy with the evening nature light on these photos taken with my little G11 camera!
Above is a gourd blossom from our garden. Wish us luck the last time we tried to grow these we did not get any gourds.

Those of you that live nearby Durham might be interested in the Durham Butterfly Count it is being held on Sunday August 15th. I'll be leading a team of butterfliers and our garden will be part of the my route. Here is a message from Jeff Pippen about the count:

Pack your binoculars -- Sunday August 15th is the 2010 NABA Durham
Butterfly Count. We routinely see between 50-60 species, vying for the highest
species diversity of any count in the Carolinas.  The Durham count circle
harbors numerous excellent butterflying locations, so we can use all the eyes
we can get!  Beginners welcome (see below).

We will meet in the NC Museum of Life and Science parking lot on
Murray Ave in Durham at 8:45a.m., Sunday 15 August.  We'll divide into groups where
beginners will be teamed up with experienced leaders, who will already know
their coverage areas, and we will try to depart the parking lot by 9am.
Butterflying may involve slowly driving/walking down dirt roads, hiking powerlines,
searching fields, wetlands, etc.  Weather permitting, we'll survey
butterflies until late afternoon and then reconvene at 4:45pm at the Museum for a
compilation of sightings.

Fast food restaurants may or may not be available, depending on your
coverage area, so I encourage participants to pack their own snacks, a lunch,
and LOTS of beverages as it's usually pretty toasty outside this time of year.
And I always recommend hiking boots, long pants, a hat, sunscreen and
Note that there is a mandatory $3 per person fee to participate
(levied by and forwarded to NABA for printing/compiling costs).

If you need directions to the museum, check out their website at  Click on "visit the museum" and scroll down to
the directions.  (Heck, the website is worth checking out anyway!)

Please contact Jeff if you plan to participate, so that I can coordinate
groups for the count.


Anna/Flowergardengirl said...

Randy you are always so helpful at identifying these beauties. You flowers and photos are wonderful.

Southern Lady said...

I always am amazed at how well you can identify butterflies. Your pictures are just great! Have fun with the butterfly count. Carla

wiseacre said...

It seems like a banner year for butterflies in general. I've never seen so many before. Wish I could ID the things but the differences are still to subtle for me. Posts like this one keep me coming back to learn more.

Cameron said...


I cannot believe the number of swallowtails here. I counted 22 on ONE buddleia yesterday! It's literally raining butterflies here. There's so much fluttering in my garden that it's like having my own butterfly house. Quite delightful!

I've noticed two Tigers dying on the ground in the last week, but they didn't look injured at all.

The joe pye, buddleia, lantana, agastache 'Blue Fortune' and zinnias seem to be the best flowers for them.

Carol said...

Happy belated Birthday Randy!! What a great gift you were given... and who more perfect to receive it. Beautiful photos as per usual. Thanks so for the tip on identification. I did look hard at the two in my b. book but chose the wrong one. I will edit that post soon. Wish I were closer to go on that butterfly hunt! Terrific post!!

Jan (VA Zone 7A) said...

Hi Randy--from my BlackBerry in Germany! Rick Brown posts Florida Gardeners on FaceBook and put a link to your post, where I could see it. You might have been referring to me when you mentioned I'd inaccuracies? I'm just glad 'somebody' knows which end is up--thanks for helping us all out!! Before we left VA for Europe last wk, we had at least 5 swallowtails on each of several bushes; primarily my Agastache. They love it. I wish I could be home to see if any of my Cats survived and made it through the transformation. When we got back from Maine the cats had left the parsley and I found just ONE pupa. If it survives, it will be finished and 'flown' by the time we return from Europe--so I won't reallu ever know if any of the 'originals' made it. HJowever, there have obviously been others that have made it in the area, which is wonderful. It would just have been a fun experience to view the entire cycle firsthand. Maybe nexy I know we won't be taking another trip like this anytime soon! Would love to attend your event. Have fun;-)

tina said...

Great pics to help me ID my butterflies. I now think I'm good at the spicebush swallowtails. We have a lot of them here fluttering about. Love em all!

Kimberly said...

Fantastic post - BEAUTIFUL butterflies!!

Dave@TheHomeGarden said...

Great photos! I figured the blue had something to do with the difference between the two swallowtails. We've had a mix of both around the yard lately. The monarchs have moved on but the swallowtails have having a great time!

Meredith said...

What fun to get to enjoy so many swallowtails. We're having a good swallowtail year here, but it might just be because my garden is so much bigger than it used to be, and more are coming to it. However, we're not getting swallowtail numbers in the 20s at a time! Wow!

I like your birthday photo -- and happy belated birthday!

Skeeter said...

I find it most difficult to id them as well. I must refer back to my book often as I get them mixed up. LOL. We dont seem to have as many as usual in our gardens but I am guessing that to be due to the lack of Lantana this year. The harsh winter seem to kill it all off so no lantana in our gardens this year. I moved the computer from upstairs to downstairs so lost my butterfly bush view. I miss the flutterbugs as I work on the computer...

inadvertent farmer said...

I love how it just sat on your shoulder...what a lovely beauty you saved! Kim

Benjamin Vogt said...

And what about black swallowtails! I never get them all right....

Town Mouse said...

Great photos!
As for the swallowtails on our aristolochias, I'm not sure. They've died out on the Peninsula, they're still around in the East Bay. I'd need to find out about Santa Cruz mountains. So far, I've never seen one, and I have 4 aristolochias in my garden.

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Randy, your photographs are stunning! You are the best! Belated Happy Birthday!

Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidenc said...

Randy, I love your site.
I just wanted you to know I added your blog to the recently launched North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association blog roll for NC Blogs!

I also wanted to make sure you received my new link for Gardening With Confidence's blog


I hope you are doing well!

Shady Gardener said...

Hoo, boy, Randy! You have provided JUST the post I needed to help me with this dilemma. I don't see the Spicebush often... so trying to discern the dark form female E. Tiger Swallowtail is very difficult!! Thanks again.

Andrea said...

Oh how wonderful it would have been if i am living in your vicinity. I love butteflies and am trying to study them on my own, until i somehow got a low and stopped for a while. But i already some basics and some larvae hosts too. In the future i intensely wanted to have a butterfly farm where children can go and appreciate being with them. I hope i will find someone like you when i get there! thanks.

Kim and Victoria said...

Great pics, as usual! Gorgeous butterflies.

Q said...

A banner year indeed! Nice group of Tigers.
My Tigers are also enjoying the Butterfly Bush and the Joe Pye.
It has been a great year for Black Swallowtails here too.
I think the Spicebush Swallowtails and the Pipevine Swallowtails are easy to confuse
Have a fun count!

meemsnyc said...

Oh wow, your photos of the butterflies are just gorgeous. That is so neat that the one butterfly checked you out!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Randy,
Thanks for identifying my butterflies. I see this was the big day of your count. I hope you saw lots of them.

I enjoyed this post. That first photo is awesome! After seeing your photos, I'm thinking the butterfly that has been getting away before I can take a photo is a dark form female Eastern Swallowtail.

Have a great week!

Sunita said...

That looks like an amazing birthday blessing! Loved the photos, Rand.
Good luck with the gourd plant. Mine are getting ready for harvest now.

Ginny said...

Thanks to this post I was able to identify the dark form female tiger swallowtail on my butterfly bush today. Very helpful!

eileeninmd said...

Randy, wonderful shots of all the butterflies. This is a great site for id's. I have been seeing a lot of balck swallowtails and tiger swallowtails in my yard. They love my lantana plants and butterfly bushes.

ryan said...

Whew. I went back and checked the lone swallowtail photo on my blog, and I think I was okay to call it an Anise Swallowtail. I can usually ID them in a photo. In person I'm a little shakier.
Our spicebush has been blooming for months, but I've never seen a spicebush swallowtail on it. I would love to see one come into our garden. That parade of caterpillars in the next post is fantastic.

Carla said...

Amazing photos! I have a small garden dedicated to hummers and butterflies. Your blog is beautiful. I will follow it for more inspiration. Love the bottle garden too.