A Butterfly Rarely Seen Around Pittsburgh: the Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

Wow! it’s been 6 whole years since we happily encountered this beauty. Not too excited to see another of the blackish swallowtails at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, we noticed at the time that it was fluttering its wings at a furious pace, just as Eastern Black Swallowtails do. But there was something that was different about this one.

When the slides were processed, it turned out that our friend had not been what we thought it was. We had met a butterfly that we have rarely seen around Pittsburgh: a Battus philenor, the Pipevine Swallowtail. Dadddah!

Caterpillars feed on Pipevine plants, storing their stable aristolochic alkaloids. This highly toxic molecule cause the adults to be generally safe from predators. Do other butterflies mimic their coloration to reduce their risk of predation?

How many Pipevine swallowtails have we locally since 2006? One. Of course they are considered a Southern butterfly, but aren’t we now overdue to again enjoy one of their bejeweled number?

By the bye, what do you find puzzling about this image?


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