Photographing Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies is a Challenge

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly at Rector, PA

The time is now. Spicebush Swallowtails are feasting on Swamp Milkweed, also called Asclepias incarnata flower clusters. Wings fluttering furiously. Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Number of butterfly species seen there to date? 62.

Photographing Spicebush butterflies on wildflowers is a challenge. They move incessantly. We must wait for good positioning, prepare fast shutter speeds as I was shooting manually, using slide film. Then I make that slow-mo approach. Once the left knee rests safely on the ground, less than 3′ from the butterfly. We’ve not lost the opportunity, then it’s shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. If it’s a fresh one, like this one, we may shoot 40-50 exposures.

Papilio troilus is a fast flier and most often seen flying 7′ – 10′ above the ground, often along trails or through forest. Less well know then other swallowtails, Spicebush deserve more, for they are flying gems. Flying gems.

I saw one this morning as I was watering the petunias, day lilies and roses in our front garden. How beautiful are they?