Saturday, October 30, 2010

Giant Swallowtails in Wildwood

While walking down Wildwood Drive one day in May, I saw what looked like a butterfly kite come sailing past me. Actually, it was a real butterfly – a huge one known as a Giant Swallowtail! Its wing span was about 5 inches, and it glided very gently fluttering up and down ahead of me. I followed it until finally rested on leaves in a tree high above my head. I knew that I had to try to get a photo, but I was so excited I could hardly hold my camera still! I later read in my insect book that it is one of the largest butterflies in North America. I spotted other Giants several times throughout the summer.
In August I was able to get a photo of its under side which is almost all yellow instead of the rich dark brown of its top side.
In August, I attended the last Summer Lecture Program at the Outdoor Classroom. I arrived early to find that a few others who had already gathered were excitedly looking at some ugly blobs on the leaves of a Hoptree sapling. Those blobs turned out to be Giant Swallowtail larvae. I returned the next day with my camera eager to get photos.

As my camera and I watched day by day, we saw those larvae grow and saw new ones take their place. Although large, those leaves must be tender and taste delicious to those very hungry caterpillars. They were crawling and munching on the leaves until frost came at the end of October. I wonder how those ugly caterpillars will metamorphose into lovely butterflies next summer. 

1 comment:

  1. Nancy,
    I've never seen a caterpillar like that before! It is strange looking!