Tag Archives: Papilio polyxenes

Thanks So Much to Kate and Our Friends at Wolf Hill!!!

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Male ©Kim Smith 2013

Newly Emerged Male Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Thanks to Kate and the team at Wolf Hill for giving me a second Black Swallowtail caterpillar of the season. And, as I was getting ready to discard the parsley plant from the first caterpillar they had found at the garden center earlier in May, I discovered yet a third caterpillar.

Chrysalis #2 eclosed yesterday in the early morning hours. The butterfly in the photo above is newly emerged, so much so that you can see its abdomen is still swollen with fluids as it is expelling a drop. After first drying his wings on the zinnias, he flew off in search of nectar and a mate. I just can’t thank you enough Kate, and everyone at Wolf Hill who is taking an interest in the caterpillars!

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Zinnia Male ©Kim Smith 2013.Male Black Swallowtail Butterfly and Zinnia

Thank you Kate for the Black Swallowtail Chrysalis!

Last week while filming on Eastern Point I had the pleasure to meet Kate, who works at Wolf Hill. She was with a friend and they were looking for butterflies through binoculars. I had seen Kate often at the garden center, but never stopped to chat. We were talking about all things butterfly when she mentioned that she had a Black Swallowtail caterpillar on a parsley plant back at the nursery office. She offered the caterpillar to me and I gladly accepted. My Black Swallowtail film is nearing completion but there was one missing piece to the story.

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis ~ Green Form

The swallowtail chrysalides that I had on film were all greenish gold. Oftentimes the Black Swallowtail chyrsalis will turn a woody brown, but no matter how hard I looked, I could not find a woody brown chrysalis. Not showing the brown form, I knew, would confuse viewers, especially families who are interested in raising swallowtails.

Kate’s caterpillar pupated while she was away from work for a few days. When she returned she found the chrysalis had wandered from the parsley plant and it had pupated on the razor thin edge of an envelope-as office caterpillars are want to do. Well, you guessed it–the Wolf Hill pupa was the brown form!

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis ~ Brown Form

I know it is said often on the pages of this blog, but Kate’s thoughfullness goes to show once again what a beautiful community is Gloucester–stunning visually, and most special of all, are the beautiful, kind-hearted people who call Gloucester home.  Thank you Kate!

Not finding a brown chrysalis is a relatively escoteric problem, to say the least, but I think you will agree that the two forms of the pupal case are remarkably different in appearance. In this photo you can see where I have taped the envelope behind a tree trunk in order to film. This is how you would find the chrysalis in a more natural setting.

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There are several openings  remaining in my Close-up Photography Workshop at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, which will be held this coming Sunday morning at 9:00 am. I would love to see you there! Follow this link to register.

Capturing a sharply in focus close-up of a butterfly, especially one in mid-flight, is one of the greatest challenges of photography and I will be revealing techniques such as these, and more; techniques that have taken many, many hours over many years to perfect. All the photos I have shot in the past year and a half were taken not with a zoom lens, but were shot with a 23mm prime lens. I am typically photographing within a foot’s distance of the butterflies!

Fujifilm X series cameras pose their own set of challenges, especially when shooting close-up. Fujifilm X series owner’s especially may find this class helpful.

Giant Swallowtail Photos from FOB Sarah Gershaw

Several days ago we posted about the local Giant Swallowtail Butterfly sightings. GMG reader and Wenham resident Sarah Gershaw reported she spotted a Giant Swallowtail in her garden that very day. She’s sent in her terrific photos. Thank you Sarah for sharing!

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio cresphontes)

All Photos Courtesy Sarah Gershaw

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Alert!!!

Last week the Giant Swallowtail butterfly visited our garden for a brief moment. I ran indoors to get my camera but it had departed by the time I returned. This morning my my friend John, who lives across from Folly Cove, emailed to say he too has spotted a Giant Swallowtail. John and I correspond regularly about butterfly sightings–I love to hear about what he is seeing on the other side of the island– and this is the first time both he and I have observed Giant Swallowtails in our gardens.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio cresphontes)

Photo Courtesy Marti Warren

One of my readers, Marti Warren, wrote in on Monday that she spotted a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly last week in her garden in Amherst, New Hampshire. 

From my favorite butterfly book, Butterflies of the East Coast by Cech and Tudor, “Although they are not regular migrants, Giant Swallowtails have appeared with some consistency as vagrants in the North, and occasionally form colonies.”
On the range map provided in the above book, the northern border of Massachusetts is at the end of the Giant Swallowtails range so I think it is fairly unusual to see one in central New Hampshire.

Male Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilo polyxenes)

Three easy ways to know whether you are seeing the more common male Black Swallowtail or the Giant Swallowtail.

1) The wingspan of the male Black Swallowtail is approximately 3.2 inches; the Giant Swallowtail’s wingspan nearly five inches.

2) Both the male and female Giant Swallowtails have a band of yellow spots that converge near the apex.

3) Additionally the only blue irredescence on the Giant Swallowtail is a semi-circular “eyebrow” over the orange and black eyespots.

Let us know if you think you have seen a Giant Swallowtail in your garden recently. If you have a photo, even better!

Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Trailer

Dear Friends,

You’ve heard me talking about my butterfly film (for Months!). I began filming the black swallowtails last July and am only now close to finishing.  I am so excited to share this project with you and hope you enjoy the trailer.

My daughter Liv and friend Kathleen Adams collaborated on a beautiful rendition of “Simple Gifts.” The music in the background is an improv interlude from their recording session.

Coming soon: Documentary about the Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly, from egg, to caterpillar, to chryrsalis, to adult. Filmed in a garden and along the seashore, Gloucester, Massachusetts. Featuring the black swallowtail butterfly, wildflowers, pollinators, the sun, the garden, and more.