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.

Jeff

Tall Verbena Plants are a Magnet for Butterflies

Eastern black swallowtail butterfly photographed at Phipps Conservatory Outdoor Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA

Our Papilio polyxenes is nectaring on tall verbena. His wings are moving faster than the eye can see, as Eastern black swallowtails do as they hover over flowers.

We’re a bit distant from him considering we are shooting macro- but the end-product is eye-pleasing and those swallowtail tails look quite handsome!

Solitary like many swallowtail species (see our posts of Tiger swallowtail, Spicebush swallowtail), a fresh one is quite a remarkable sight and tears you away from whatever else you were searching for.

Tall verbena planted in a good-sized grouping is a magnet to draw so many butterflies. Nectaring from May to October, they are one of the best investments still available for the prudent gardener. About 24″ tall, the flower head provides photos that are extraordinary, because when you shot with one knee resting on the ground, you can include your home, your barn, your pup, your kitten or . . . in the background.

Enjoy our 4 earlier posts of Eastern Black Swallowtails.

Our instant photo was taken in the middle of the city of Pittsburgh. What say you to that?

Jeffrey