In Doak Field, a Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly with Royal Blue and Coral Spotted Patterns

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly on a Common Milkweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA
When one flies in, and you’re sure it’s a black species of swallowtail, lots of us immediately speed to determine if it is that uncommon Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly. Not easy that, for they move their wings very rapidly, as they hover over the flowers they’ve common to enjoy. Making it even more difficult to decide the ID, the definitive ventral (under) wing surface is usually tough to see, that because those wings are in rapid motion.

What do I do? I quickly position myself knowing that my object of possible elation will be gone in one minute or less. Then I shoot way, with my Canon film camera’s shutter choice set a 3-exposures in a second or so. Sometimes all this results in success! This time, I score an fine image of this Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly nectaring on a Common Milkweed flowerhead. There’s no doubt about it. The wash of royal blue extends forward of the sweet coral spots, the abdomen and thorax and head feature the characteristic pattern of Pipevine white body spots, and this one is Fresh! Very Fresh!

Have I ever thought that the incoming butterfly was a Pipevine, only to be disappointed, or to find that it was a Pipevine, but a ‘worn’ individual? Well, yes, perhaps hundreds of times over these years.

Doak field, Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, just an 8-hour drive from Grand Central Station/Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.


A Texan Strymon Melinus Franki Butterfly

Dorsal view of Gray Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

I’ve stared at this one many times, and was stumped. It sure looks like a Gray Hairstreak female: Orange antennae tips, gray abdomen, wings held open, tails, orange on head, that orange spot with the black spot at its outer margin, but . . . those blue spots along the outer margins of the hindwings??

I sought feedback from Mike Rickard for the ID of another Lower Rio Grande Valley butterfly (The Cassius Blue) and along the way, he suggested I visit the website, Welcome To Butterflies Of AmericaI did, and Mike was right, that website is a big help when you want to ID a butterfly.

This one here is typical of Gray Hairstreaks in Texas, what with those blue spots winking at you. So this is of the Strymon Melinus Franki subspecies, and I love those blues, I do.