Currently viewing the category: "Butterflies and Skippers"

2 different swallowtail butterflies
July 12, 2010
Hi again Bugman!,
Congrats on the book!
This afternoon near Garnett, Kansas (that’s about an hour and a half South and a little West of Kansas City) I was out looking for interesting photo ops in a field of wildflowers, and saw what I thought was a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. About 15 seconds looking through your butterfly pages, and I’m pretty sure what I’ve got here is a Zebra Swallowtail. It did not seem a bit put out by my presence, which surprised me because it’s wings were a little battered, you know the way they might look if a bird had gotten a taste?, even so, it was a beaut’ and it allowed me to make many attempts at a clear photo. While I was following it around another type of Swallowtail showed up, and I managed to get a reasonable pic of that one also, though it was not nearly as accommodating as the first one.
I can’t find one that matches it on WTB anywhere! I wondered if you could help me out with that? Both butterflies are striking. They are roughly identical in size. The mystery one is mostly black with vivid yellow spots on it’s wings in the shape of a V. Both of them have a small group of red and blue spots on the hind wings, so I gave some thought to the possibility of sexual dimorphism. Did I spell that right?, but now I’m leaning toward two different species.
The coolest thing to me though, is the several rows of yellow dots down the black one’s abdomen.
July/11/10, Temperature in the mid-80s F, though it felt more like upper 90s.
Thanks in advance!
Jeff in T-Town
Eastern Kansas, USA

Zebra Swallowtail

Hi Jeff,
Thanks for your thoughtful letter and great photos of a Zebra Swallowtail and a male Black Swallowtail.  The Black Swallowtail does exhibit sexual dimorphism.  The difference between male and female Black Swallowtail,
Papilio polyxenes, is summed up on BugGuide as:  “Female, with its large blue patches on hindwings, is a mimic of the Pipevine Swallowtail. Some female Black Swallowtails have little yellow on wings above. Males have more extensive broken yellow band.”  You can also see comparison photos on BugGuide’s Info page.

Male Black Swallowtail

Black swallowtail life cycle
July 9, 2010
I thought you’d enjoy my photographic documentation of the Black Swallowtail life cycle.
Sherry Young
Roe, Monroe County, Arkansas

Black Swallowtail Egg

Hi Sherry,
Thanks so much for sending us your documentation of the early stages of the life cycle of a Black Swallowtail.
Your caterpillar images show two different instars.  Caterpillars molt five times before the chrysalis stage, and each of these instars, in addition to allowing the caterpillar to grow, often demonstrate different coloration and patterns.

INSERT:  July 9, 2010

Black swallowtail 2nd instar
July 9, 2010
Of course, after I submit my 6 pics of the black swallowtail life cycle, I FINALLY get a good picture of what I believe is a 2nd instar!
Sherry Young
Roe, Monroe County, Arkansas
Ed. Note: This was inserted from a later email. End Insert

A mature caterpillar might have no resemblance to an earlier instar.

Black swallowtail life cycle part 2
July 9, 2010
the first email includes egg, early instar (3 I think) and a 5th instar. This one includes 5th getting ready for pupation, chrysalis, and newly emerged butterfly!
Sherry Young
Roe, Monroe County, Arkansas

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar prepares to pupate

Hi again Sherry,
We are thrilled that you rounded out this Life Cycle of a Black Swallowtail so completely.

Your adult butterfly is a female as evidenced by the blue markings on the wings.  Can you provide us with the name of the food plant.  It does not appear to be parsley nor carrots (caterpillars are often called Carrot Worms) but it does look like it might be dill.

Imposter! Actually, it was a Viceroy!
July 3, 2010
Hi Bugman,
I sent you a question that you kindly answered back on June 24, about a mystery caterpillar on the curly willow in our yard. We’d determined it was a Red Spotted Purple (and it did look just like that caterpillar). Well, imagine my surprise when I went out into the garden early this morning to find a dozen+ VICEROY butterflies! I am attaching some photos for you 🙂
Amy The Bug Girl
Little Rock, AR, USA

Viceroy: Newly Metamorphosed

Hi Amy,
First, we apologize for our misidentification of your Viceroy Caterpillar last month.  In our defense, the Viceroy,
Limenitis archippus, and the Red Spotted Purple, Limenitis arthemis astyanax, are in the same genus and their caterpillars look very similar.  We especially like that your one photo shows the Chrysalis below the newly emerged adult butterfly.  It is also wonderful that you provided us with views of both the open and closed wings.


A butterfly !
June 28, 2010
Your letter to the bugman    Hi I took this photograph in a butterfly garden located in Quepos, Costa Rica, Pacific Coast.
How you want your letter signed    mmh ? don’t understand the question ?
Geographic Location of Bug     Quepos, Costa Rica, Pacific Coast.

Might this be an Owl Butterfly

Dear mmh ? don’t understand the question ?,
The line on our form that indicates “How you want your letter signed” is the field that allows the writer to use their real name or a pseudonym with the submission of the letter.  The letters that are submitted may be posted to our website and it is generally considered proper etiquette to place a name or identifying mark after writing a letter.  We respect our readership’s desire to maintain anonymity sometimes, so we do not post real names or email addresses unless the person completes the “How you want your letter signed” field with a real name, or unless they request that their email address be posted.  Your photo is very nice.

Ed. Note: mmh ? don’t understand the question ? did not request an identification and we don’t understand what they want us to do with the photograph.  The correct identification of a rarely seen species might take hours, and even then, there might not be a satisfactory result.  Though we don’t believe this is an Owl Butterfly in the genus Caligo, it does share some similarities.  Cirrus IMages has a nice image of an Owl Butterfly.  This specimen might be in the genus Caligo, and it might be a related genus in the family Nymphalidae, the Brush Footed Butterflies.  We suspect that Karl will be able to provide us with more information.

Hi Daniel
Thanks a lot for your answer ! I’m french and sometimes my english is a bit too light !!
Shall I complete the form with my real name then : Sabine Bernert
In fact, now that I have more space to explain my question, I should add that I’m working on two books about Costa Rica wildlife (adult and kids versions).
Many thanks for your help !!
All the best

Hi Again Sabine,
Now that you have clarified your confusion, we feel that we owe you an apology for not providing you with an identification.  Also, we would think the butterfly garden might have information on the species represented in the garden.

Giant Swallowtail
June 25, 2010
Hi Daniel, This beautiful butterfly was shot about three weeks ago. I was driving down a country road, when I saw it I had to stop and back up a few feet to shoot from the car window. I thought it was an “Eastern Tiger Swallowtail” but it has been bothering me because the marking were different I thought it might be a mutant. Then tonight I followed a link you had to “Butterflies and Moths of North America” lo and behold their it was just as big as life. (Wonderful site also) I was impress with the beauty of this one and with your help,permission and tolerance I would like to share it with everyone. Thank you and have a wonderful day.
North Middle Tennessee

Giant Swallowtail

Hi again Richard,
We will never forget the first time we saw a Giant Swallowtail in Los Angeles in the first years of the new millennium.  around the time they became more plentiful in Southern California.  They frequently visit our lantana beginning in July.  We have read in numerous places that this is the largest North American butterfly.  the LA Times did a nice story in 2007.

Giant Swallowtail

June 23, 2010
Hi Daniel, I don’t know the species of these but maybe something you were looking for. They are some that looked sort of like “Fritillaries” to me. I have more but the site only allows three images. If you would like more let me know and I will send them thru outlook express. Thank You and have a great day
North Middle Tennessee

Question Mark

Hi Again Richard,
This butterfly is actually the other butterfly we requested images of, the Question Mark, so named because of the silver marks that look like an interrogation punctuation sign on the under side of the hind wings.  We have already posted your other photos of Fritillaries.