Currently viewing the category: "swallowtails"
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Tiger Swallowtail Gynandromorph
Location:  Hillsborough, NC
August 6, 2010 10:48 am
Hi guys,
I work at the Butterfly House at the NC Museum of Life & Science, Durham, NC. Your site is invaluable to us! A friend of ours, who lives locally, sent us this photo of a Tiger Swallowtail gynandromorph, taken last week. I’ve been hoping to see one for decades! If you look closely you can see small patches of wing from male tissue on the female (left) side. What we’d like to know is, does anyone have an idea of the frequency of such an occurrence, especially a near-perfect bilateral one like this?
Richard Stickney

Tiger Swallowtail Gyandromorph

Hi Richard,
Your letter and photograph have us very excited.  On a recent behind the scenes tour our staff was given at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, the entomologist, Dr. Brian Brown was very proud of two specimens of butterfly gynandromorphs he showed us, but neither was as spectacular as this Tiger Swallowtail.  Its coloration is even more dramatic since the female left half is also the less common dark morph.  We will contact Dr. Brown to see if he can provide any information on the frequency of occurrence of gynandromorphs in general, and in particular, such dramatic examples.  We are going to have to bump something from our feature section to include this marvelous documentation.  Mom who is visiting from Ohio identified the food plant as Joe Pye Weed, a common roadside wild flower.

Tiger Swallowtails, including rare Gynandromorph, and Ailanthus Webworm Moths nectaring on Joe Pye Weed

Update:  Julian Donahue suggests some resources
August 9, 2010
That is indeed a dramatic bilateral gynandromorph.
I don’t know of a single paper that answers your question about the frequency of this, but you might want to ask someone who works in butterfly genetics.
Try sending the photo and question to some of the following, all of whom work in this field (all are Ph.D.s):
Andy Brower
Thomas C. Emmel [head of the McGuire Center in Gainesville, which probably has a large collection of gynandromorphs)]
Paul Opler
Austin “Bob” Platt
Mark Scriber ["expert" on P. glaucus]
Good luck,
Julian P. Donahue

Ed. Note: What follows is the email we sent to the experts.
Dear Venerable Experts,
I was given your names and contact information by my friend and neighbor Julian Donahue.  My name is Daniel and I am a rank amateur who has been running the pop culture website What’s That Bug? on the internet for ten years.  This amazing photograph of a bilateral gynandromorph Tiger Swallowtail was recently sent to the website from North Carolina.  Can anyone provide any information on the degree of frequency of butterfly gynandromorphs and any information on their fecundity?  Thanks for your assistance.
Daniel Marlos

Paul Opler responds
Dear Daniel,
This is not only a bilateral gynandromorph, but is also showing some mosaic traits.
Beautiful image!
Paul Opler

Professor Andrew Brower responds
Hi Daniel,
You asked about fecundity of these:  I think zero – the genitalia are half male, half female, and I think they cannot engage in copulation.
I don’t know offhand the frequency with which bilateral gynandromorphs occur, but I know by their desirability that they must be rare – perhaps one in 10,000 (a random guess).
Andy Brower
Professor Andrew Brower
Department of Biology
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, TN  37132   USA

Mark Scriber responds
Hi everyone;
This is a beautifual specimen. It is obviously nearly a bilateral gynandromorph, but with yellow mosaic color (probably male-like). We sometimes see yellow/dark mosaics (usually in the dark morph female wing background) in offspring our reared tiger swallowtials. I would estimate that these have occurred roughly at rates of 1  in 4,000-5000 offspring. The bilateral gynandromorph tigers are rarer, and might be found roughly once in 20, 000.  We have reviewed the role of hybridization in this phenomenon and some of the historical records in a recent paper:
Scriber, J. M.,  R.J. Mercader, H. Romack and M. Deering. 2009 Not all bilateral gynandromorphs are interspecific
hybrids: new Papilio specimens from field populations. J. Lepid. Soc. (color illustrated) 63 (1): 37-47
Best regards,
Mark Scriber

Brian Brown Responds
September 17, 2010
Sorry I took so long to respond. Gynandromorphs are indeed rare, but
insect populations are so large that they are almost inevitable. In some
insect they are even common. I imagine they don’t do very well in the
environment however, as their lack of symmetry in size would make them
clumsy. If you Google “gynandromorph frequency” you’ll see that there
are many studies on this subject.
Brian V. Brown
Curator, Entomology Section
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Busy Bush
Location:  North Middle Tennessee
August 3, 2010 1:12 pm
Hi Daniel,
I don’t know the name of these bushes they are a nuisance. Grow almost everywhere have thorns that tend to break off in your hand, these flowers (sweet smelling) are followed by berries (black) that stain. That being said right now they are the main attraction in the neighborhood for all sorts of insects. Bees, wasp, flies, moths, butterflies are all competing for the nectar. I have spent hours standing in one spot photographing all sorts of critters. (I do keep my distance cause the bees are ”packing heat”) However they all seem to just have eating on their minds, haven’t noticed any agressive behavior from any of them toward each other or me for sticking my nose into their business. One absence I have notice from the nectar feast is ”Honey Bees” they are all but extinct around here. I realize this is off topic but I found all of the bush’s activity interesting. Thanks for all you do and have a wonderful day.

Monarch and Bumble Bees

Hi Richard,
What, pray tell, is “off topic” in your letter?  We find it to be spot on topic.  We hope one of our readers can provide the name of this plant, because though you have provided some of its negative qualities, it seems the benefits of providing a bounty of nectar for insects and probably berries for birds would make it a very desirable plant for nature enthusiasts who populate their gardens with plants that will attract wildlife.  Among the visitors you have documented are a Monarch Butterfly, a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Bumble Bees and an Ailanthus Webworm Moth.  We are sad to hear of the demise of the local Honey Bee population.  We can only hope that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) will run its course and the surviving bees will have the genetic resistance to make a comeback.

Tiger Swallowtail, Ailanthus Webworm and other pollinators

Note to Readers: If you recognize this plant, please provide a name.

August 5, 2010 10:04 am
Daniel:  I wonder if the thorny, flowering plant with Tiger Swallowtail and Ailanthus Webworm Moth on it could be
Hercules’ Club (Aralia spinosa) or (less likely) Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridum).
Dave Fallow in Madison Wisconsin

Hello Daniel,
I never though it would be of any interest to anyone but since you posted it I became corrious and did a bit of internet searching. The bush is a :”Devil’s Walkingstick” or “Aralia spinosa L.” here is a link to the plant:
Thank you for all you do and have a wonderful day.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination


Location:  Bellville, Ohio
August 3, 2010 6:26 pm
I thought you might like these pictures of A Black Swallowtail, from start to finish.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Hi Jim,
Thanks for sending us your wonderful documentation of the metamorphosis of a Black Swallowtail.  Maria Sibylla Merian would be impressed.  It appears as though the Chrysalis image is of the exuvia, the cast off skin after the butterfly has emerged.  It is also quite curious that the Chrysalis is up-side-down.  Generally the Swallowtail Butterflies make a Chrysalis that is upright and supported by the silk girdle.

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis (butterfly emerged)

The adult imago is a female.  The female has blue markings while the male has yellow spots.

Female Black Swallowtail

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Anise Swallowtail
Location:  Cotati, CA
July 28, 2010 7:04 pm
I raised Anise Swallowtail butterflies locally for 15 years and have always had an amazing time watching them transform. I caught one of them in the middle of cocooning. Thought it would be nice to share! He later hatched into a beautiful butterfly!

Anise Swallowtail Chrysalis with larval exuvia still attached

Hi Lauren,
Your photographs are stunning.  We especially like that your Anise Swallowtail Chrysalis photo has captured the molting process and the exoskeleton of the caterpillar is still visible.

Anise Swallowtail

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Unknown Gorgeous Butterfly
Location:  Eastern Ohio
July 25, 2010 10:10 pm
Yet another beauty found out on the trails in Eastern Ohio. Its about 3-3.5 inches wide, and as you can see has amazing color! An ID would be superb!

Tiger Swallowtail

Ed. Note: The following email arrived about five minutes after the first.

Tiger Swallowtail?
Location:  Eastern Ohio
July 25, 2010 10:15 pm
Here are two excellent photos of what I believe is a Tiger Swallowtail, as identified by WTB. Verify for me, oh great bug identifiers!

Tiger Swallowail

Hi Knaet,
The butterfly images attached to both of your emails are Tiger Swallowtails.  The individual in the first email appears to be puddling at the site of some moist soil.  We are uncertain if the second set of images is of the same specimen, which you correctly identified in about five minutes, or if you thought there were two different species of butterflies.  We suspect the former, in which case you should be congratulated on the proper identification.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Location:  Lexington NC
July 23, 2010 5:53 pm
He was a bit leery so I could not get a real good shot, but hope you enjoy this one.

Tiger Swallowtail

We know first hand how elusive Swallowtail Butterflies can be when there is a camera present, so we are happy to post your image of this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail to acknowledge your accomplishment.  It appears as though he may be puddling, an activity engaged in by many male butterflies that often congregate in great numbers near damp places so they can drink fluids that contain necessary salts and minerals.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination